When Halloween Meant Scaring Up a Little Romance


It seems to me that Halloween has grown darker over the years.  Growing up in Michigan, we dressed up as beggars and yelled “Help the poor.”  I don’t remember anyone wearing scary costumes.  Another place where you probably wouldn’t have seen werewolves or zombies is in the Old West.

During the 1800s it was considered a night of romance. Many of the tricks and treats of those Victorian Halloween parties were designed with romance in mind.

 In the Old West, Halloween dances were held in schoolhouses, barns or churches.  Guests were required to jump over a broom upon arrival to assure future happiness.  Masquerade balls were popular, too, but mostly held in the east.   

Apples played an important part in these Halloween rituals but so did tin soldiers.  An article in the El Paso Daily paper in 1899 described the ritual of melting tin soldiers.  A young woman would then drip the melted tin from a spoon into cold water. The tin would harden in all manner of shapes, thus foretelling a maiden’s future.  If, for example, the tin looked like a shoe, she would marry a shoemaker.  A ship meant her future husband would be a sailor and a hammer foretold a carpenter in her future.

Bobbing for apples was a must, but with an interesting twist. The apples would each contain the name of a male guest.  A woman lucky enough to sink her teeth into a pippin would come up with more than just a wet face; she’d also know the name of her future mate.

 Some enterprising hostesses who owned apple trees went one step further.  While the apples were still green they glued the initials of single males onto the apples.  When the apples ripened, the paper was washed off revealing the green initials on the rosy cheeks.   Upon arriving at the party, female guests would draw an apple from the tub to find out the name of her dance partner.

 Another popular game involving apples required careful paring so that the peels were cut into one long strip. These were then thrown over the left shoulder.  The initial the peel made on the floor was the initial of a future love.

 Peelings were also hung from barn doors and female guests were given a number. If for example, you got number two, then the second male through the door was your true love.

 Another crowd-pleaser was the cobweb game.  Guests were each given two bright colored threads attached to a cardboard heart in some remote corner. The threads ran through the room in an intricate pattern. The idea was to unravel your thread by bobbing under a red thread or slipping through a tangle of green or blue threads until you reached the heart which named your partner for the night.

Halloween games also included the game of Proposal.  Each woman was given a stack of cardboard hearts and lemons.  The males had to go around the room and propose to each woman. He had thirty seconds to convince her to marry him. When the bell rang, she would either give him a lemon for no or a heart for yes.  At the end of the game, the man with the most hearts won. 

With all the ghosts and goblins of today, it’s hard to imagine a time when Halloween was just another word for romance                             

        How are you and your family planning to spend this pandemic Halloween? 

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42 thoughts on “When Halloween Meant Scaring Up a Little Romance”

  1. My husband is working on Halloween, so he’ll be tired that night. But we don’t have children and haven’t celebrated Halloween in years.

  2. Wow, I didn’t know any of that! Thanks for the education! Our Halloween will be nothing out of the ordinary – we’re in the country, so we don’t get kids, even without a pandemic! Happy Halloween, everyone!

  3. Oh my I’ve never heard any of this before! How could one holiday have changed so much over the years! We don’t have Halloween plans. We never get trick or treaters and my youngest is 17. Maybe since its a Saturday Night I’ll try to convince my daughter to watch scary movies with me but I won’t hold my breath. We will probably watch some Halloween movies that aren’t quite so scary….

  4. Halloween is our least favorite holiday so we usually don’t do anything. We are empty nesters so no kids at home either! Our church is doing a Trunk or Treat in the afternoon so we’ll probably attend that and help out with the little kids. Then it’s college football!

  5. An interesting post, Margaret. It’s pretty amazing how things have changed over the years. My grandchildren are going trick-or-treating in their neighborhood and I’ll be going with them, so it will be a pretty typical Halloween for us here.

  6. Loved your informative article! I should have lived ‘back in the day’! Sounds a lot more fun & innocent than today! That’s why I like reading westerns from the 1800’s or early 1900’s!

    We never have trick or treaters where we live now so we will watch Georgia beat Kentucky & eat some Halloween candy! Then in the evening have a fire in the fire pit in the back yard & cook hot dogs & roast marsh mellows!

    Happy Halloween!

  7. My Daughter was going to go sit up at our little community neighborhood this evening to pass out candy but it is pouring down the rain here and the forecast is not going to change this evening So I guess we will be watching movies this evening and making popcorn! Love The Hallmark Movies!

  8. I hope the neighbor kids stop by and our grandsons trick or treat too. We get very few Halloween trick or treaters.

  9. What an interesting post. I have seen some old Halloween cards that were a bit more on the grim side, but they must be from a different time period. I do remember my aunt mentioning something about peeling an apple. It wasn’t related to Halloween, but the goal was to try and get it off in one stip. It has been so long since she has been gone, I don’t quite remember what she said it meant, but it was something about the length of the peel relating to the length and happiness of a marriage. It was likely a blend of Irish, French, and Canadian traditions.

    It will be a quiet day at home as usual. We live out in the country and in 25 years or so have had Trick or Treaters maybe 10 times and most of those were our grandson who is now 22. Our granddaughter who is 9 lives 6 hours away, so we have to rely on pictures of her night. The town (10 miles away) has a big Halloween event down Main Street and the few children in our area go there. We have new neighbors in the area and they have children. We got some candy just in case they do come by since the town event is canceled. My husband bought the candy and didn’t get my favorites. Probably just as well, but I will eat them anyway.

  10. We will have ” Stew in a Pumpkin” for our supper and eat by the fireplace. We’ll probably watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” too.

    • Hi Alice, I heard that Charlie Brown specials will no longer air on network TV. They can only be watched on Apple TV. What a bummer. Your “Stew in a Pumpkin” sounds intriguing. Family tradition?

      • The idea came from “Taste of Home” magazine several years ago and we have made it every year since. Yes, it has become a family tradition.

  11. It’s an interesting post. We won’t be giving candy at the door this year since it’s been discouraged. So we’ll be having a quiet day at home.

  12. Thank you for sharing this very interesting information, I enjoyed reading it. We will be spending it at home , we will only have our 2 grandchildren that live here in our same town as trick or treaters. They are having trick or treaters here at our town, but the only place my grandchildren will be going to is our house. We are not having any other trick or treaters , for safety for all.

  13. We will be staying home watching NASCAR racing then football. We will be eating candy…of course.
    Thank you for telling us about how Halloween used to be. Sounds like so much fun.

  14. I have no children. We stopped giving out candy many years ago when we had some older children who were a bit threatening. We spent a quiet day at home together. My Mom read. My husband watched football. I was on the computer.

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