Ancestors' Halloween Traditions

In European counties, the traditions of All Saints Day on Nov. 1st and the tradition of dressing as devils, saints and angels to honor the dead on Nov. 2nd, goes back for decades. In American, Halloween traditions didn’t begin until the second half of the 19th century, and the spooky affair went on to become synonymous with parties, parades, treats, and costumes. People did make their own costumes and the celebrations were done by adults.

For parties in the 1910s, special Halloween invitations were sent out and it was popular to send Halloween postcards to friends and family who did not live nearby. But during the Spanish Flu of 1918-1919, Halloween parties were canceled.

In the 1920s, Halloween parties by adults were very popular. The party planning in the early 1920s would start as early as August. People loved to decoration their homes and businesses. By the 1920s, Halloween had become synonymous with mischief, which young people used as an excuse to break windows or damage property. In 1923, the police chief commissioner in Omaha, Nebraska, went so far as to make deputies of the city’s worst boys on October 31st and had them report any vandalism or criminal behavior.

Costumes in the 1920s for adults or children ranged from witches, ghosts to clowns. The term ‘trick or treat’ started to be used in the late 1920s. At the parties, for adults, the most popular activity was a fortune-telling game. Questions such as “Will I marry soon?’ or “Will I get a new job?” were the questions asked most.

In the 1930s, the hanging of manufactured paper skeletons on the front door was done. Paper hats made of orange crepe paper were worn. Popular children’s costumes for ‘trick or treat’ or parties were: Colonial-era clothing styles, sailors, pirates, cowboys or clowns.

The 1930s had the Golden Age of monster movies from Hollywood, California. Favorites such as Dracula and Frankenstein appearing in cinemas in 1931, and King Kong and The Invisible Man in 1933. Plus the horror classic The Bride of Frankenstein debuted in 1935. Everyone loved these movies.

‘Trick or Treat’ for youngsters really gained popularity in the ’30s and ’40s, when children were offered everything from homemade treats to coins, toys, and fruit. It wasn’t until the 1950s that candy companies began specifically promoting their products for Halloween.

Adults returned to having Halloween parties during World War II starting with the U. S. entrance in 1941, Halloween parties offered a much-needed distraction from the so-called “war strain.”

By the 1950s, Halloween had transformed into a family-friendly holiday geared toward children. Thanks to the post-war baby boom, Halloween parties were moving away from town centers and into private homes and schools. Children’s costumes were less made at home but rather purchased at stores, prices ranging from $1.00 to $3.00.

The 1950s again saw many Hollywood movies with a horror theme, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The 1960s had TV shows such as The Addams Family, Bewitched and The Munsters. Another scary costume from the 1950s was an iron lung machine. Yes, youngsters were placed in a homemade iron lung as if they had polio.

Having a large pumpkin at one’s house became popular. They had names and none is more iconic than the Howden pumpkin, developed in the ’60s, the variety is known for its large size, handle-like stem, and bright orange color . Still very popular in 2010s.

Decorating for Halloween is now more popular than ever.

Photos: Early Halloween postcard.

Related Blogs:

Halloween Photos

Scary Family Given Names or Surnames

Halloween Canceled due to the Spanish Flu

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.