Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween is coming!

Did you ever wonder about the origins of Halloween? Are you interested in cultural analysis of Halloween customs or movies? Well, we have databases that can help you fulfill both those needs, and many more.

For scholarly takes on Halloween, or other pop culture phenomena, try out the Pop Culture database. This collection provides useful information for any researcher in a social science, history, art, or liberal arts course. The collection is made up of 100 subject-appropriate periodicals, which are predominantly full-text.

For less-in depth, but still useful information, check out Credo Reference, a reference tool containing full-text entries from encyclopedias, traditional and bilingual dictionaries, biographies and quotations. That is where I found this description of the history of Halloween, taken from the Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary:

Halloween has its ultimate origins in the ancient Celtic harvest festival, SAMHAIN, a time when people believed that the spirits of the dead roamed the earth. Irish settlers brought their Halloween customs—which included bobbing for apples and lighting jack-o’-lanterns—to America in the 1840s.

In the United States children go from house to house in costume—often dressed as ghosts, skeletons, or vampires—on Halloween saying, “Trick or treat!” Though for the most part the threat is in jest, the “trick” part of the children’s cry carries the implication that if they don’t receive a treat, the children will subject that house to some kind of prank, such as marking its windows with a bar of soap or throwing eggs at it. Most receive treats in the form of candy or money. But Halloween parties and parades are popular with adults as well.

Because nuts were a favorite means of foretelling the future on this night, All Hallows’ Eve in England became known as Nutcrack Night. Other British names for the day include Bob Apple Night, Duck (or Dookie) Apple Night, Crab Apple Night, Thump-the-door Night, and, in Wales, APPLE AND CANDLE NIGHT. In the United States it is sometimes referred to as Trick or Treat Night.

These and other databases are available to state employees for remote access. Please contact the Circulation Department for more information. The general public may use the databases for free here in the library.