Tag Archives: victorian halloween

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911)

As many of you are no doubt planning themes for Halloween get-togethers next month, I thought maybe Ms. Ruby Ross Goodnow could help you plan. Actually, the party below, held on “Hallowe’en” at “eight o’ clock” in 1911, was also meant to be a housewarming party, for a brand new home, perhaps a bungalow or craftsman like the one pictured below. I found this article, originally published in the October 1911 issue of The Delineator, a few years ago and I just love it! (Note that a yearly subscription was $1. Sweet!) I’m considering planning a Halloween get together myself, and using this retro article as a starting point for a turn of the century theme!

 

The cover of the October 1911 issue of Delineator.

The cover of the October 1911 issue of The Delineator.

 

From the October 1911 issue of The Delineator:

___________________________________

Entertainment in October

Conducted by Ruby Ross Goodnow

Mrs. Goodnow will be glad to help you with any kind of entertainment. Write her for suggestions, giving the exact date of your party, enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope for reply.

.

A HALLOWE’EN HOUSEWARMING

The Dr. John F. and Mary Reddy House in Medford Oregon. Photo (from the National Register of Historic Places) was taken in 1911, the same year of construction.

The Dr. John F. and Mary Reddy House in Medford Oregon. This photo (from the National Register of Historic Places) is not of the house featured in this article, but was taken in 1911, the same year of its construction, and the same year as this issue of Delineator.

We had moved into our new home and, of course, we wished to welcome our friends beneath our roof-tree, so we planned a Hallowe’en housewarming, which was the jolliest affair ever.

We had some little brown-prints made of the new house, and sent one of these to each of our friends enclosed in the following note:

“Our latch-string now hangs on the outside!

Won’t you come and use it on Hallowe’en, at eight o’ clock?”

We invited all our friends, old and young and in-betweens. And we opened all our house-we knew that the cellar would be as interesting to Uncle John as the attic would be to Great-Aunt Martha. We had Jack-o’-lanterns on the gate-posts, and in spooky corners of the cellars, and in the attic.

All the young people were given cards, very much like dance-cards, with spaces for engagements in regular order: “9 o’ clock, Mr. B—-, cellar stairs; 9:30 Mr. C—-, library davenport; 10, Mr. D—-, kitchen-table,” and so on. This arrangement of conversational “dates” kept the young people scrambling all over the house, up-stairs and down, and there was no possibility of stagnation!

And we served refreshments all over the house, too. We had a brand-new barrel of apples in the cellar; a huge pot of coffee and little squares of hot gingerbread in the kitchen; half a dozen bowls of nuts in the attic; a platter of sandwiches in the living-room; a huge bowl of fruit-punch in the dining-room; a silver dish of mints in the library and several platters of home-made candy in the various bedrooms.

At half after eleven we all met in the big living-room and ranged ourselves around the great fireplace. Then my husband very solemnly lighted the first fire on the new hearthstone, and our guests all toasted our new home. Then we told ghost stories, and roasted chestnuts, and popped corn, and counted apple-seeds until well after the charmed hour of midnight!   C.B.A.

___________________________________

A few notes: 

I tried to do some quick research to find out exactly what is meant by “brown-prints” in this article. I only find information leading me to a type of photography. Did they send photos of the new house with the invitations? 

Though 1911 is a bit after the Victorian days, up to around the 1900s Halloween meant socializing (clearly pointed out in the article), parlor games, and was often thought of as a romantic holiday for young people. This was a time when young girls or ladies would practice innocent rituals or perhaps attempt to contact the spirit world to learn who their future husband would be. The roasting of various nuts, counting apple seeds, etc, was often used as a kind of fortune-telling at these gatherings. In those days Halloween was less about spookiness and death. 

For more information about the history and traditions of Halloween, check out HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American Tradition by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne.  

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HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American History…

It makes me sad to admit, but my reading has really slowed down in recent months with so much going on. So I knew I needed to get an early start on this one to get it done in time. I’ve always been the person who gets overly excited about each season before it even arrives (my first “Fall” post was back on August 1st, for God’s sake), so it really worked out for me. 

As you’ve heard me say so often in this blog, I heard this author being interviewed on The Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold. She is a pro on the topic of Halloween, and I just love listening to her. I believe Jim has had her on a few times. 

The author, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, from her Amazon author page.

What we know as “Halloween” comes from so many places, traditions, and cultures that it is very easy to get lost in it all. Just like America itself, Halloween really is a blend of it all. The earliest roots come from Pagan traditions that were later changed by the Catholic church into what we know as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Throw in a little Guy Fawkes Day (which I’d never heard of), the Celtic festival of Samhain, and the Roman festival of Pomona, and hundreds of years later we open our doors on the evening of October 31st to hear “trick or treat” being shouted by masquerading children of all ages.

 

 

Some interesting things I learned…

  • Interested in a 9th century recipe for “All Souls’ Bread” that the Roman Catholic clergy encouraged the living to offer to spirits of the dead? This book has it. 
  • For a while the holiday seemed to be more about love than anything spooky. Many early Halloween traditions included young women practicing divination of all kinds to determine their future husbands. If you’d like to try it, you can stare into a candle lit mirror at midnight on Halloween. The face of your future love will show up over your shoulder. Not creepy at all (rrrriiiiiiight). This is also where bobbing for apples came from. Another tradition was for girls to hang their wet blouses to dry above them while they slept. Apparently your future husband will visit and “turn the sleeve”. Good to know. 
  • Another interesting tradition… the Irish “Dumb Supper”. A young woman was supposed to see the shape and image of her future love if she cooked and served an entire meal backwards. I’m not sure how this works but I’d love to see it. 
  • Lesley includes a page out of the October 1911 issue of The Delineator, where ideas for entertaining in October are given. Love it! Time machine, please!
  • Using pumpkins as lanterns, or carving pumpkins into “jack-o-lanterns” came from the Irish. Before they arrived to America where large pumpkins were available, they used hollowed out turnips. The story of “Jack” (which there are different versions of) is also fascinating.
  • The Mexican “Day of the Dead” is something I think is fascinating… and I’d love to experience it. 
  • I’ve always wanted to experience the Victorian era, but Halloween in those days just seems so interesting and fun! LOVED this section in the book. Also, one of the main reasons I like the movie Meet Me In St. Louis is the depiction of Halloween in those few scenes. 

There is also plenty in this book on the more familiar 20th century Halloween traditions. 

This is not a new book (it was originally published in 1990), but it’s a good one with lots of fun facts and history. If you want to learn about the history of many of our traditions from this season while also getting in the mood for ghosts and goblins, you should check out this book… maybe put it on your list for next fall. 

 

Halloween is just around the corner! Enjoy!

 

Peace!

 


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