To help get ourselves ready for spooky season, we did a digital dive into our holdings looking for all things Halloween. Follow along as we exhibit what we found from across different eras in our digitized periodicals. What can we learn about Halloween? Have traditions changed over time? Don’t forget to click on links to access articles in full.
The very first reference to Halloween in our BC Historical Newspaper Collection is from 1893. This blurb speaks of dangerous Halloween antics that led to five years hard labour for the prankster!
Our next reference is from 1888. This one offers a description of different Halloween activities that people enjoyed during this period. Apple bobbing and ghost costumes were essential parts of the day, and so were those familiar teenage hi-jinks.
In fact, hi-jinks seem to be a vital part of Halloween night during the late-19th century. In a brief from an 1899 issue of Kootenay Mail, you can read about how a woman was traumatized by a group of pranksters who gave her a fright in the night.
Into the 20th century, newspapers are filled with reports about high society Halloween festivities. People celebrated by adding witchy decorations to homes, and attending events such as masquerade balls and tea parties. Games like Pin the Tail on the Black Cat and general mischief-making were also part of the fun.
Towards contemporary times, we see that decorating with carved pumpkins and witches are still the standard, yet there’s a shift away from high society events. The most obvious change is an emphasis on the participation of children as the tradition of trick-or-treating settles into place.
Of course, adults were also encouraged to have some fun. Here are two advertisements for costume parties that were likely a very good time.
Entering the millennium we see people beginning to interact more deeply with the macabre. In our campus publications, we notice that rituals include watching horror movies, attending rock concerts, visiting haunted houses, parading in street parties and putting up extra creepy house displays.
What do you think – is Halloween scarier than ever? How have your Halloween traditions changed?
If you‘re interested in the history of Halloween we found a few interesting articles:
Samhain, Halloween – It’s the Same Thing (1997, UBC Reports)
Halloween Once a Time of Terror (1968, Central Fraser Valley Star)
Hallowe’en Is Eve of Mystery (1913, The Daily News)
Whatever you decide to do this year, please be safe!