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Fraiberg, L. Fraiberg, S. (1950). Hallowe'en: Ritual and Myth in a Children's Holiday. Am. Imago, 7(3):289-328.

(1950). American Imago, 7(3):289-328

Hallowe'en: Ritual and Myth in a Children's Holiday

Louis Fraiberg and Selma Fraiberg

I. The American Children's Holiday

In the games and lore of childhood we see the survivals of archaic knowledge and rituals. It is as if childhood were the museum of the race, a repository of the cast-off beliefs, the moribund rites and the impotent magic of the centuries. These relics share the fate of discards from unremembered time—the children take them over. The determined scavengers, the archeologists of the junk heap, retrieve them before they are lost and preserve them with childish exactitude. So it is that ancient custom lives on in the games and beliefs of childhood, in which forgotten rites of magic, sacrifice and taboo can easily be discerned.

This brings us to some reflections on the celebration of Hallowe ‘en today. Here we see the children as the inheritors of primitive rites concerned with harvest and the return of the dead, customs which are rooted so deeply in the pagan past of Europe that the Church was forced to compromise with and, in the end, to adopt some of these practices under the thin disguise of All Saints and All Souls Days. In modern times the traditions and lore of Hallowe'en have almost perished as living rites. In this country they survive in the children's holiday as games and customs whose origins and meanings are unknown to the enthusiasts who perform them. Nor does it matter, for childhood has its own reasons for the preservation and perennial revival of the ancient rites.

To our knowledge the holiday has only once before been subjected to psychoanalytic scrutiny. Richard Sterba 1) examines European, especially Viennese, observances for the dead on All Souls Day and the American children's Hallowe'en.

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