Leave it to the Victorians to celebrate Halloween in style. Their 19th-century aesthetic resulted in what we consider today to be strange societal quirks, from bizarre jobs (like leech collector) to fun slang (sad people “got the morbs”) to highly impractical fashion (toxic dyes and flammable fabrics were often the price of beauty).
So what did these over-the-top gigglemugs think of Halloween? Their architectural style, after all, lent itself well to our modern idea of a haunted house, mostly because the 20th century brought about a rejection of the opulent homes of the era. But Victorians weren’t big on the creep factor. Instead, Halloween was a time to amp up their already irreverent behavior. Check out seven Halloween traditions from the Victorian spooky season.
1. Victorians like to try and predict their marital status on Halloween.
When you think of Halloween, you think goblins and pumpkins. But in the Victorian era, revelers often turned their thoughts to walking down the aisle. Parlor games that were thought to have some insight into a person’s future were popular at the time. One such game involved a woman walking into a dark room, alone, and standing in front of a mirror. As they peeled an apple—try not to ask why that part was crucial—the woman might be able to see the reflection of the person they would someday marry. Alternately, they’d see a skeleton, in which case they’d die alone.
Another manner of speculation was to bake cakes containing a needle, thimble, dime, or ring. In addition to being an excellent way to choke or injure yourself, the cakes were believed to foretell marriage. A needle or thimble in your slice meant spinsterhood, since you’d apparently have plenty of time to sew; a dime or ring meant good fortune or wedding bells.
The Vics were also preoccupied with Halloween tea time, a social gathering with tea and snacks that could also be the setting for assessing their dating future. The women would use a teacup and suspend an empty spoon on the edge. Using a second spoon, they’d drip tea into the first spoon until it fell into the cup. Each drop corresponded with a year they’d have to wait before marriage. Again, this was before television.
2. Victorians liked to carve up turnips for Halloween.
Pumpkins were definitely a Halloween tradition, but they weren’t the only vegetable that the Victorians used around the holiday. Turnips (also called neeps) were a common resource for seasonal carving and even for making turnip lanterns. This could sometimes prove dangerous: In Scotland in 1899, a man angered a small army of children by refusing to accommodate their demands for candy. When he opened the door, a turnip hit him in the face, breaking his nose.
3. Victorians were handy with party invitations.
To be invited to a Halloween party was to be welcomed into a social event. Instead of just asking someone to attend, party organizers would sometimes leave carved pumpkins on the doorsteps of prospective guests. According to author Lesley Bannatyne, the jack-o’-lanterns were usually accompanied by handmade, written invitations complete with verse:
"Come at the witching hour of eight And let the fairies read your fate; Reveal to none this secret plot or woe—not luck—will be your lot!"
Source: Mental Floss
Original publication 24 September, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 4 weeks ago
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