Course explores Halloween rituals

Some students may have missed out on some interesting information this Halloween. An expert on issues such as death and Halloween traditions, among other things, has been passing on his knowledge of the great unknown to many students right here on campus.

Jack Santino has enjoyed Halloween ever since he was a child growing up in Boston. His favorite part about Halloween is the connection that it has to the fall.

“I like seeing how people are creative with traditional symbols,” Santino said. He has seen many interesting Halloween decorations including; patriotic pumpkins, a gravestone with a family’s dead parakeet’s name printed on it, skeletons and grotesque bodies hanging from trees and pumpkins stacked in the form of a snowman.

While going to college Santino noticed that many people thought it was cool to not like holidays. This trend seemed to disappear more and more every year.

“I noticed Halloween was making a comeback,” Santino said. He would tell his friends this, but they didn’t take it as seriously as he did.

Santino became so interested that he decided to do research on the subject of Halloween and other holidays. He visited Ireland to interview people and witness first hand what holidays were like in other countries.

When Santino returned to the United States he wrote a book titled “Hallowed Eve.” The book explained the history and current customs that are celebrated during Halloween just in Ireland. The phenomenon of spontaneous shrines which are put up for people who have a sudden or tragic death is also documented in his book.

The idea to have a “Folklore of Death” course came to Santino when he noticed that a lot of the information he was discussing in class dealt with the subject of death. Santino suggested the idea to have a Folklore of Death class to the Popular Culture Department and it was offered for the first time this past semester.

“I have had more responses to it than any other class,” Santino said.

He was surprised by the overall interest that has been generated by the class. The only negative responses he has received were letters from people who didn’t believe the subject of death should be taught in the classroom because of religious beliefs.

Santino respects and understands why some people would have a problem with the class because of religious reasons, but he also believes it is an important issue students should learn about.

“When you study death, you study life,” Santino said.

He thinks that students become more comfortable with the idea of death after they understand it better.

According to Santino the most common misunderstanding about Halloween is the urban myth about the razor blade apples or poisoned candy given to children on Halloween. He says that there has never been an actual report of this happening.

Currently Santino is thinking about doing an international study on the holiday traditions in other countries such as Europe.