Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Horror of Poor Scholarship

The English settled Jamestown, in what is now Virginia, in 1607.  Jamestown is the oldest, continuous, English colony in the United States of America.
In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers, founded Plymouth in what is currently Massachusetts.

There is a sad and unfortunate tendency in this country to tell the history of the nation from the perspective of a small handful of religious radicals, vice doing so from a whole nation perspective.  Modern historians, professional and amateur, seem unable to tell the story of America from any perspective save that of the Plymouth puritans.  "Historical" Halloween origins are not spared this egregious oversight.  Too often some erroneous but, perhaps, well-meaning scholar will write, with perfect conviction, that Halloween was not popular in America because the Pilgrim Fathers or Massachusetts Puritans did not approve of, or celebrate it.  These same scholars will simply gloss over or fail to mention that Virginia Colony even existed.
This is unacceptable.

Virginia gained the nickname "The Old Dominion" due to its loyalty to the crown during the English Civil War.  The English Civil War was fought between the Crown and Puritans...who colonized Plymouth.  It is reasonable then to conclude there was a cultural divide between the Virginia and New England colonies.  Immigration patterns also show that Virginia was colonized by a variety peoples while Plymouth was a unified, socially cohesive unit.

The point to be made here is that Virginia celebrated the holidays of the homeland.  Virginia and Virginians wore the clothing of their homeland, ate the foods of the homeland and thought of themselves as part of the homeland. The draconian dictates and disinterests of a handful of Puritans did not stop early Americans, for certainly the Virginians were, from celebrating Church of England holidays, cultural holidays, or holding harvest festivals, complete with divination and rituals.  It is a case of poor scholarship that causes historians, professional and amateur, to continue perpetuating the myths of Halloween in America.

I encourage individual research on this topic for any interested in the origins and customs of this most fascinating and regionally specific holiday.

Happy Hallowe'en.

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