As we slide into October, we look forward to the Halloween season. It’s not just a day anymore, because it take a whole month to watch all those horror films, not to mention planning our elaborate costumes, wearing them to parties, and then posting them on social media. Holiday traditions change all the time, but the Victorians celebrated in some weird ways. For example, young ladies of the time were obsessed with their future husbands, so they used Halloween for games that might predict their love life.
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.
Playing games of romance at Halloween may be weird to us, but it’s not any weirder than telling ghost stories at Christmas or trick-or-treating on Thanksgiving, which were both traditions in the past. The Victorians didn’t have horror films, but they had parties, fancy ones with elaborate invitations and decorations, and even costumes of a sort. Read about seven Victorian Halloween traditions that contrast with the way we celebrate the holiday now at Mental Floss.
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