Halloween: Victorian Style

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The Victorian era unveiled quite a few traditions, not to mention unmasked a couple of notable villains in history. From so-called ‘Freak Shows’ – – to a collection of gothic literature, some forms of Victorian entertainment have found their way into modern life too.

The era saw a drastic change and many events that would alter the course of history. These include the abolition of slavery for those working in the British Caribbean, and education becoming compulsory for those under the age of ten, in 1880.

Life in the Victorian era wasn’t all smiles and laughter though. Whilst the rich enjoyed their wealth, along with the perks of education and shiny new belongings, the poor struggled to get by and worked for cheap labour in mines and factories.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of this period though, was the way they celebrated certain festivities – notably, Halloween.

With Halloween on the way, we found it only fitting to introduce you to a few of the traditions from the Victorian era. Below we have compiled a couple of ways the Victorians celebrated Halloween.

Ghost Stories

Without a television to smother imaginations, the Victorians had to resort to another form of promising nightmares on the evening of Halloween; ghost stories. Imagine this, sitting in a circle in nothing but candlelight, with your friends and family, taking it in turns to come up with the spookiest tale of ghouls and vampires.

Also, a few gothic horror classics were published during this era, including Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker. Perhaps families, friends or whole communities would take it in turns to pass the book around and read a line or two!

Festive Games

In addition to spooking their neighbours with terrifying stories, the Victorians also participated in a number of festive games on Halloween, some of which we still play today. Games like Apple Bobbing, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Blind Man’s Bluff and a series of scavenger trails were played by whole communities at a time.

Also, the night was filled with other celebrations too, such as fortune telling and indulgence in food and drink.

A Sense of Community

Halloween soon became a time for people to come together to share celebrations, either as a family, group of friends or sometimes as a whole town or village. This sense of community, we can imagine, was unparalleled and allowed those who led hard lives to come together and celebrate as one.

These are just a few Halloween traditions from the Victorian era, many of which we still celebrate with today.

Do you have anymore you would like to share?

This Halloween, why not find out more about a particular Victorian serial killer who stalked the streets of the East End and disappeared into the heart of the night without a slither of a trace? Our Jack the Ripper walks will take you on a journey into the Victorian East End and provide you with all the gory and grisly details surrounding the murders along the way.

Richard CobbRichard Cobb – has written 208 posts on this site.
Richard Cobb is a industry expert on everything Jack The Ripper, he is also the founding partner of The Jack The Ripper Tour which has become extremely successful over the last 3 years.

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