Halloweens Past Look to the Future
Looking back 100 years or so, how did Americans celebrate Halloween? Trick-or-treating was not established, although pranks certainly were; decorating with jack-o-lanterns was popular, and costumes were much in demand. Both children and adults tended to celebrate with parties or masquerades.
One set of customs seems to have died out: communicating with the spirits in order to see the future, most commonly expressed as who you would marry. There were any number of “charms” that were used to indicate compatibility; some were mentioned in a poem by Robert Burns. For instance, two nuts would each be assigned a name. They could thrown in the fire, and their placement as they burned would indicate if the couple would remain together or part.
Another set of charms were related to mirrors at midnight; if a young woman looked into a mirror at that hour under the right circumstances, she would see her future husband’s face reflected.
“In a thousand boarding schools a thousand girls will creep down the cellar stairs holding a mirror and a candle as the hour strikes 12, looking fearfully for the reflected face which is to tell them of the future; and in more than a thousand apartment houses–where there are no cellar stairs–young women will eat an apple before a mirror and hold a candle by whose light they expect to see that same prophetic vision” – The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]), 31 Oct. 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
[caption id=“attachment_781” align=“alignnone” width=“440”] The Pensacola journal. (Pensacola, Fla.), 25 Oct. 1906. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87062268/1906-10-25/ed-1/seq-2/>[/caption]
Explore magazines and newspapers through our Primary Sources LibGuide for more historical Halloween fun. Happy Halloween!
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