Today, Halloween is big business, but our Victorian and Edwardian ancestors also enjoyed this ancient holiday. (This post is a companion piece to Melina Druga’s WWI Trilogy, Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year, available wherever eBooks are sold.)
It was during this time, that it became a holiday for children.
There were a number of regional traditions. Some traditions, such as dances, haven’t survived the test of time. Still, if you were to take a time machine back to the early 20th century, the holiday would be very similar to today.
Children and young adults would play tricks on Oct. 30 to celebrate Mischief Night. Communities became increasingly concerned about safety and held parties to prevent vandalism. Churches, schools and civic organizations hosted the festivities.
Party games included blow out the candle and bobbing for apples.
Among the affluent, masquerade balls were the first social event after returning to the city from their summer homes.
Jack o’ lanterns were carved and lit with candles. Halloween was considered a rustic holiday, and other decorations were inspired by nature. Common decorations included leaves, cornstalks, tree branches and vegetables.
Some communities also hosted trick or treating.
Costumes were homemade and worn by adults and children. Patterns and costume ideas appeared in magazines.
Costumes generally followed standard conventions: ghosts, witches, fairies and the like. They also reflected a Victorian fascination with exotic and foreign cultures.
Here are some examples of revelers dressed up in their costumes.
If you enjoy vintage photos, visit my Pinterest board Halloween: 1890-1920.
Updated: 16 October 2020