A Victorian Halloween!

Happy almost Halloween everybody! Perhaps you’ve been counting down the days, getting ready to enjoy the creepy and fun things the season has to offer. Well, you’re not alone. The Victorians also enjoyed the creepiness of Halloween! Folks in Victorian times seemed to live spooky lives year round – hair lockets, post-mortem photography, and mourning art dedicated to those who had passed away. However, they also celebrated Halloween, but not quite how we celebrate today. In honor of Halloween being just around the corner, let’s take a look at some Victorian traditions –

A Victorian Halloween greeting card

1. Halloween Parties
The Victorians enjoyed a good Halloween party just as much as we do! Jack-O-Lanterns, ghost stories, games and spooky decorations were commonplace at these parties. According to the 1903 edition of the Sunday Herald of Syracuse, New York (originally researched and described by Stephanie Carroll):

Cushions were strewn about the floor for the guests in the library. When the green flames flickered out, someone lit the fireplace, and attendees began telling ghost stories. Each guest had been instructed to bring a ghost story or be “threatened with violent ejection.” The author commented that the stories were so frightening more than one person screamed when an alarm clock went off in the middle of it. He also commented that it was surprising how many guests had brought alarm clocks for this purpose. After the stories had ended, electric lights flickered on to reveal popping corn, games, and refreshments.

2. Halloween Treats
No, the Victorians were not eating mini chocolate bars and stale bags of snack sized chips. Instead, they would indulge in treats such as cakes, fruit, nuts, apples, and of course ale! Victorians also had their version of candy apples, dipped in syrup and butter. Check out this recommendation for food to serve at a Halloween party:

Menu for a Halloween Party, Ingalls Home and Art Magazine, 1891. Courtesy Mimi Matthews

3. Halloween Postcards
This is an interesting one. Victorians were the pioneers of the postcard, which usually featured an interesting piece of art on the front, and a space to write a message on the back. Victorians had an intricate post card for almost every occasion, including Christmas and Valentine’s day. Some of the artwork was a little odd… but that just made it all the more charming!

Happy Halloween! A nice postcard

In case that wasn’t enough Halloween for you, our Howling Hootenanny event will be running this weekend! Don’t miss the creepy creature show, the haunted maze, or the spooky pioneer superstitions!


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