A Look at Halloween Past
All Hallows Eve parties were very much in vogue at the turn of the last century, beginning with adults and transitioning to children as time passed.
Halloween games fancied at this time were often depicted on old postcards, simple cardboard games, and in party handbooks. Postcards can be found more frequently than other paper items and range in price from $10 or so to several hundred now. You'll pay similarly for other Halloween themed paper goods should you decide to collect a few.
More on Vintage Halloween Customs
If you want to learn more about these forgotten traditions without spending a small fortune on collectibles, look up HALLOWEEN: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear by Diane C. Arkins for Pelican Publishing.
Since many of these games and superstitions attempt to predict who a partygoer will marry or who will have a blessed marriage, they truly are romantic in nature. Others foresee good or bad fortune, or reflect a popular superstition of the time while incorporating engaging artwork.
Youâll also find that one of the best parts about adding vintage customs to modern gatherings is the simplicity. Ordinary items like apples, mirrors and candles come into play frequently.
Bobbing for Apples
Based on how many illustrations are seen with this motif, âduckingâ or bobbing for apples must have been quite popular around 1900.
In one Victorian version of the apple-bobbing game, a dime is placed in one apple, a ring in another and a button in a third. These denote fortune, marriage and single blessedness for the person coming up with each apple.
Another custom admonishes the apple bobber to take the fruit home and hide it "beneath your pillow white, and then you'll see your sweetheart in your dreams that mystic night." This comes from a poem titled "The Power of the Lucky Apple" published in 1937.
The poem goes on to say, "Another superstition tells a girl the fruit to eat, as she combs her hair at midnight, if she would her true love meet. He would gaze into her mirror where his image will be found. But for fear that he will vanish, she must NEVER LOOK AROUND!"
The Spell of Apple Paring
Apple paring is another popular game of the early 1900s. In fact, both women and girls can be found participating in the spell of apple paring in postcard illustrations.
During this party game, all participants peel their apples trying their best not to break the strip. The fun part comes in tossing the peel over the left shoulder and examining the shape in which it lands. The letter the peel assumes should reveal the beginning of their true love's name.
A fun pastime no doubt, but was it really just apple paring practice disguised as a game? One thing we do know is that any game where knives are involved requires adult supervision when played today.
Apple Seeds to Predict Mateâs Vocation
Using the seeds from the apple after finishing it as a party treat, a number of other games could be played. For instance, a prediction regarding the vocation of a future mate could be garnered by counting the seeds in an apple.
This simple game has girls counting the seeds to this rhyme, "Rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief; doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief." Boys would chant, "Rich girl, poor girl, pretty girl, brunette; sweet girl, neat girl, lazy girl, coquette." The last seed would decide the lad's fate.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall â¦
Many older postcards also depict women and girls gazing into mirrors on All Hallows Eve, always at the stroke of midnight or âwitching hour.â This custom usually predicted to whom the gazer would be married.
One card reads: âMay the reflection which you see be the counterfeit of me.â Another states, âOn Hallowee'n look in the glass, your future husband's face will pass.â
Some customs have the girl looking into a larger mirror over her shoulder using a hand mirror. Others are gazing straight in to the mirror as the reflection of their future mate reflects back at them over their shoulder. Most look quite calm considering whatâs going on there.
Questionable Candle Games
When a girl was going to marry could be predicted with a candle. To play this game the participant is blindfolded, and then tries to blow out the flame. The instructions read: âIf with one puff you blow out the light, 'tis a sign you'll marry this year. If with two, or three your chance is slight, and if more, give up for the night.â
Another game shows a boy trying to blow out a candle near an apple his best girl has just bitten as they spin in front of them. This card reads, âIf you blow out the light ere the apple is bit by the girl that you love best, her heartâs yours forever, sheâll think it clever, and your marriage will be blessed.
Since they were forced to use candles for light back then, itâs understandable theyâd use them for games as well. Watchful parents of today might not approve, however, so itâs best not to attempt this sort of thing without adult supervision.