Snap-Apple Night by Daniel Maclise, 1833.
"Vintage" Halloween Traditions
Halloween is a uniquely American holiday, having been enriched and enhanced by the experience of Welsh, Scottish, and Irish immigrants to North America and which have gone largely extinct in the British Isles. These immigrants brought with them traditions originating in the Celtic Samhain, Roman Pomonalia, and Roman Catholic Hallowmas festivals. Modern cultural survivals are enjoyed in communities across the United States in the practices of trick-or-treating, Jack-O-Lanterns, mask/costume wearing, and apple bobbing.
Yet, traditions and origins far richer and fascinating are lost to history and memory.
If you're interested in a little history, the symbolism and iconography of our logo may fascinate you and immerse you in the historical origins of Hallowe'en.
By reacquainting you with these traditions, we can revive them.
Be sure to check out (in addition to Creative Costumes):
The CORE Traditions of the Candlelight Experience
Halloween is Americana.
Our history is far richer, diverse, and more varied than often understood.
Field and Farm Fertility Traditions. Most of our most ancient customs around Hallow's Eve most certainly derive from the Celtic Samhain and Roman Pomonalia fall harvest and fertility festivals. Those traditions involving bonfires, candles, nuts, and apples all come from these fall harvest and fertility festivals. From the story of Stingy Jack O' the Lantern to the carved turnips that originally represented them to others to predict one's luck in the next year or over one's life, to finding a mate, to determining the suitability of a present romantic interest, most of our traditions were concerned with ensuring bountiful harvest or offspring.
Victorian Hallow's Eve Spiritualism Traditions. Life before and during the Industrial Era was surrounded by death. Life was cheap as childbirth, disease, dangerous work, and war casualties meant death was lurking around every corner. So many of our lost customs and traditions revolved around the idea that Hallow's Eve was the best time to make contact with one's lost loved ones—something very few Americans had qualms over. Very few then would see them as weird, contrary to their faith traditions, or evil.
They were normalized through the Christian social and religious movement of the 1840s-1940s dubbed Spiritualism that began with the Second Great Awakening in upstate New York and ghost knocking with the infamous charlatan Fox sisters. Consequently, most of our forgotten Halloween traditions revolved around the desire to foretell one's future in the next year; how, when, where, or how they might find a mate; or to divine their fates. They've become extinct likely due to the exposure of several prominent mediums associated with Spiritualism as frauds.
Yet, it's still a fun and fascinating thing to experience Halloween as they once did and know where both the more familiar customs derived and to reacquaint ourselves with those less familiar customs that were lost as a result.
Hallowed Eve Party Traditions. The evolution of the European Roman Catholic practice of souling into trick-or-treating meant that by the Industrial Era, gangs of delinquent youths roamed streets on Mischief Night wreaking vandalism, havoc and mayhem, giving adults the impulse to give them entertaining alternatives through Halloween Parties.
Murder Mystery. New to Candlelight's Vintage Halloween Experience in 2023.
Owing largely originally to the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock mysteries), Penny Dreadfuls (Victorian Era predecessors to comic books, dime store horror graphic novels), and dime store mysteries, murder mysteries began to pop up as a feature of Halloween Parties during the heyday of the Halloween Party from the 1840s-1940s. Of course the works of Edgar Allen Poe are writ large in the American imagination in this respect too, as were the writings of other famous colonial and Victorian Era horror writers.
As American horror master extraordinaries Vincent Price and Alfred Hitchcock continued in this tradition, Popular Publications' Classic Comics' Dime Mystery, Horror Stories, and Terror Tales and E.C Comics' 1950-1955Tales from the Crypt, Nancy Drew mystery novels, and Rod Sterling's Twilight Zone, and the horror and mystery writings of Agatha Christie capture the imaginations of generations of American children and readers, murder mysteries became a mainstay of American Halloween Parties by the mid-century of the 20th Century (1900s, 1940s-1960s).
Thus, a rich tapestry of customs evolved from the Victorian Era (~1820-1900) through the mid-century of the 20th Century (~1960s).
Most of these traditions were concerned with ascertaining one's future in the next year, finding a mate, flirting with crushes at parties, or discovering one's fate.
Part of an old U.S. Halloween tradition, blindfolded children attempt to put out a candle in a photograph dated to the 1900s.
John Masey Wright's illustration to Robert Burns' poem, "Halloween," from Burns' book of poems Kilmarnock, published in 1786, shows Scottish country people enjoying the nut roasting charms of Halloween night (aka Nutcrack Night).
Premium Add-on Traditions:
The Path of Mystery & Candlelit Halloween Superstition Walk
Late in September or early October, after dark, you'd answer a knock at your door to find a candle burning on your doorstep with an invitation to a Halloween Party. Not only was no one at your door when you answered it, but who invited you and where the party was were mysteries.
Inside your invitation, you'd find riddles and clues you'd decipher that would bring you to a summoning location from which your masked host would guide you to the haunted halls of the party in silence by candlelight while instructing you about special Halloween superstitions.
Another tradition was that of a Halloween parade in which the participants at a party would parade around the block or entire neighborhood in costume by candlelight.
The Path of Mystery: $10.
This add-on has you solve escape room style clues to decipher local macabre history but terminates with a geocache in which you'll find a $10 Certificate to the Candlelit Halloween Superstitions Walk which is complimentary to you as a Path of Mystery completer.
Candlelit Halloween Superstitions Walk: $10.
This add-on (free to those who complete the Path of Mystery) will be announced after dark at 8 PM for the Early Experience and 10 PM for the VIP Experience. Revelers will get an LED flicker votive candle (thanks to fire codes but we'll also give you a candle to be lit only in the safety of your own home) in an amber mason jar and proceed by candlelit processional around the neighborhood in costume learning about Halloween superstitions in homage to Halloween parades at parties AND the invitation custom.
VIP Experiences: Premium Traditions for the Late Show*
The Midnight Dumb Supper [click for more info]
Spirit Mediumship: An immersive journey into the mysteries of Victorian spiritualism
The Tools and Practices of Spiritualism: Step into the Past: A Glimpse into Victorian Culture - Discover the Surprising Practices of Spiritualism: A guided exploration of the tools of Victorian spiritual practices and traditions
*Candlelight Frights is in no way liable for nocturnal revelations before, during, or after your experiences with us about love or life or future. Also, just to be clear, after your Dumb Supper, you should not drive home from the venue in reverse (nor should you drive if you've been drinking [please drink responsibly], call an Uber/Lyft/Tipsy Taxi or use a designated driver) unless you'd like to visit with law enforcement. But when you get home you should exit your vehicle and enter your home continuing in reverse as you exited the venue, take another bite, wrap the remains and sleep with them under your pillow to dream of your true love.