New Hampshire Customs and Games for Halloween in 1916

from Portsmouth Herald, (Portsmouth NH) October 30, 1916

Halloween, the celebration of which has been handed down to us by the Druids of ancient times, is the one night of all nights in the year when ghosts and witches are supposed to wander abroad.

Victorian pumpkin cardThis feast day was first celebrated by the lighting of bonfires but later combined with the Roman festival in honor of Pomona the goddess of orchards and fruits held about November 1, in which nuts and apples representing the Winter store of fruits played an important part. Thus our custom of roasting nuts and the sport known as “apple ducking.”

Today we still cling to the celebration of Halloween using the wtich and the ghost; symbols given to us by this ancient people. No celebration is complete without them.

The house should be decorated with jack o’lanterns, made from apples, squash, pasteboard boxes or pumpkins. To make these lanterns, cut holes for nose, eyes and mouth and cover with transparent paper.

Use Autumn leaves, apples, and ears of corn on mantals, (sic) and for a centerpiece for table, have a large pumpkin filled with yellow chrysanthemums. For favors have walnuts, with the fortune of each guest neatly written on a small piece of paper, which is folded and placed inside the nutshell.

For place cards use witches hats made of black tissue paper pasted onto a white card. Invitations may be made in the same way, using a cap instead of a witch’s hat. On the card will be printed: “Wont You Come to My Ghost Party. October 31, 1916.”  Before the guests arrive turn out all lights and have house in darkness. Have some dressed as a ghost and carrying a flashlight greet them.

Now for refreshments. Oat cakes spread with peanut butter are fine and the real Scotch call these cakes “sowens.” Hot gingerbread spread with the marshmallow frosting in between the layers is delicious served with sweet cider, which of course the proper drink to serve. A candy pull would be lots of fun, and when the sirup is almost hard, dip small red apples (place on skewers) into it, thus making the old-fashioned taffy apples of grandfather’s days. The hostess can write the fortunes on squares of paper like: “You will marry rich.” or “Your husband will be poor, but clever,” or for the man, “Your wife will be kind and a good cook,” or “You will marry, but you will be poor,” and wrap them on squares of taffy or carmels and call them “fortune candy.” Place one dish of candy for the girls and one dish of candy for the boys. Sandwiches may be made of white cutters. Use currants for eyes and a streak of melted chocolate for other features. Tiny red cinnamon candies can be used for buttons.

Another Victorian PostcardA fortune cake may be made. Cut it into 24 pieces or slices. The pieces for the girls to take were iced in pink or some color and in each slice is found a tight roll of paper on which is written the boys or man’s name who is present, who is to escort her home so that fate is decided; and in the slices the boys or men are to take a wee black cat, mounted, is found, bread cut out with little women and an article indicating the calling of the “wife” fate has chosen for him; a silver coin, wealth; a scrap of silk, a fashionable wife; a penny, poverty; a tiny spoon, a good cook and housekeeper; a pen, a literary woman; a small silver heart, a marriage for love; a small brush, an artistic wife; a tiny mirror, a vain woman; a piece of black, a widow; a ring, a spiteful marriage caused by jealousy; a flower or vegetable, a farmer girl; a coil of hair or some flour in a package, an actress; a nut, a foolish or jolly girl, etc.

Pass the cake to a girl first, let her find the slip of paper and a boy whose name is on it takes the next piece and finds what sort of a wife he is going to have. This cake will prove the most entertaining feature.

Why not spend an hour in a progressive “novelty” party? All that this requires is score cards and a different game at each table. The two having the highest score progress to the next table; either three, four or five tables may be easily arranged and this will be a welcome diversion. For the prizes, have some of the many halloween favor boxes filled with candy and chestnuts. To find partners, have the score cards tied, two with black and two with yellow ribbons. The two colors play with each other, the black against the yellow, etc. Different games like casino, pit, old maid, rhum, hearts, or 500 or whist may be played.

It is also great fun to do different stunts, like apple dunking; biting an apple, suspended by a string from ceiling, hands tied behind you, to get the lucky 10-cent piece; spearing peanuts, hunting partner peanuts, if dancing is to be a feature. Shell peanuts, save shells, write partner’s name (ladies present) and tie inside peanut shells, with string or ribbon, hide in difficult places, and set men or boys hunting for their female partners; stringing glass beads; jackstraws or many other stunts. Be sure to use jack o’lanterns and candles for decorations. Pumpkin and squash pies should be served and brown bread also is in great demand if oat cakes are not served.


Roasting Chestnuts on Fire
The gentleman and lady each place a chestnut close together on top of the stove. If the chestnuts hiss and steam this indicates strife; if one pops away, separation; if both burn side by side, the couple will live together forever happy.

Ring, Thimble and Penny Game
Hide a ring, thimble and penny and send your guests in search for them. For the one finding the ring, a speedy marriage is promised; the one finding the thimble will be an old victorian halloween witchmaid, and the one finding the penny will be wealthy.

Needle-Threading Contest
Give each of the male members of the party a needle and a piece of thread and ask them to thread the needles. The one first to succeed will be the first to marry. The awkward manner in which the men attempt to thread the needles, furnished amusement for the other guests.

Raisin Race
String raisins in middle of a string a yard long. Two persons each take an end of the string in their mouth. Whoever by chewing the string gets the raisin first will be the first to be married.

Pumpkin Alphabet
Carve letters on pumpkin, set pumpkin on table. Blindfold guests, give each a hatpin and lead to pumpkin. The letter she or he sticks hatpin in will be the initial of his or her future wife or husband.

Dough Test
Make dough of water and meal. Write names of men and women guests on small pieces of paper, roll up and put in dough, then drop in water. First names to appear will be first to become engaged.

Meeting Your Fate
Have guests fill their mouths with water and walk around the house. The first person met will be his or her fate.

Other games which furnish great amusement for your guests are:
– Going downstairs backward, looking in mirror and trying to see in it the face of your future husband.
– Also paring apples and throwing the peel over your head. The letter formed by the apple peel will be the initial of your future husband or wife.

Saucer Game
Place four saucers in a row. Fill one with dirt, another water, in another put a ring and in the fourth a rag. Blindfold guests and lead them around the table twice. The one putting their hand in the dirt will be divorced, the one into water will go abroad; the one finding the ring will be married, and the one finding the rag will be single always.

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