“Halloween in the early 20th century had far less emphasis on blood, gore and scary monsters, and much more emphasis on courtship, romance and the opportunity for love,” Daniel Gifford, the former manager of museum advisory committees for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History explained in a museum blog post last year.
“In fact, the image of Cupid was often interspersed among the more familiar black cats, witches and jack-o’-lanterns.”
Halloween games and traditions reflected that attention to themes of love, with many offering a peek at what the future holds. For women in a restrictive society, they offered a semblance of control.
“Given the importance of finding a desirable marriageable man in an era when prim, proper, ladylike behavior was the norm, young women often reveled in chances to participate in well-established and -regarded traditions that might guide them to the spouses of their dreams,” Diane Arkins, the author of the book “Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear,” from Pelican Publishing, said in an email.
Here’s a look at some of those largely forgotten customs.