Young men, who wish to decide their fate on Halloween should dress in their best, walk to the candy store about 7 p.m., purchase a box of the most expensive dainties, and go to the home of some girl. Be sure that you select the home of the one you imagine to be the bright particular star of them all. After asking for her, put your hat and stick within convenient reach, assume a pleasant smile, and when she appears give her the candy. Along with this say as many sweet things as come into your head. Then repeat slowly but distinctly these words: “Will you marry me?” If she answers “Yes” your fate is fixed.
A quaint old custom for girls who wish to peer into the future is to walk down the cellar stairs backward at midnight, holding a candle in the hand and peer into a mirror. There the face of the future husband possibly will be seen. An improvement upon this custom is for the girl to walk into the kitchen and secure a juicy apple pie. Return to the parlor, holding the pie carefully before you. Take a knife and cut it into quarters. Put one quarter on a plate, pour over it some rich cream, lay a spoon beside the pie and hand it to the young man, saying at the same time: “I made this pie myself.” This beats the cellar stairs and mirror experiment about ten miles. It is a certain augur of the future.
Throwing an apple peeling over the shoulder is another odd old custom for Halloween observance. The peeling is supposed to curl into a letter representing the initial of the future husband’s name. A better test than this is to let the young man see you idly scribbling. You write your first name and then his last name. Thus, if your first name is Lucille and his last name is Miggleberry, you would write “Lucille Miggleberry.” Naturally, he will want to see what you have written. Then you must blush and seem confused and try to tear of the paper. DO NOT TEAR IT UP. After due reluctance, let him see what you have written, coyly explaining that you just wondered how the names would look together.
Burning a paper on which is written the name of the adored one is also a favorite charm for Halloween. This is popularly supposed to bring him to his senses. A much surer plan, and a more sociable one, is to invite him to spend the evening, and also to ask another man—a handsome man who is tolerably smitten with you himself. Contrive to send the second man home earlier than the adored one. This is said to work well indeed.
Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 30 October 1904: p. 33
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Other Hallowe’en customs included hiding a dime, a ring and a thimble in a cake or a dish of mashed potatoes. The person finding the ring will soon be married. The one who gets the thimble will be a spinster. And the finder of the dime will never lack for money. Mrs Daffodil suspects that there was often some sleight-of-hand involved in cutting the cake or dishing the potatoes. There were still other rituals involving mirrors at midnight and various rhyming charms at windows.
Mrs Daffodil is puzzled as to how a religious feast celebrating the dead emerging from their graves to wander the earth became a festival of divinatory practices to identify one’s future spouse. One supposes it is a manifestation of that vulgar expression, “sex and death,” so amply represented in these latter days by the many “naughty nurse” Hallowe’en costumes.
Mrs Daffodil has written of other, darker Hallowe’en superstitions and of Queen Victoria’s celebration of Hallowe’en at Balmoral.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.
I’m all for the pie approach over the backwards basement stairs approach. I’m going to try this move myself )
An admirable idea! Mrs Daffodil found that to be a sensible adaptation of the original charm.
I suppose these were American practices as the UK in those days probably hadn’t clocked Halloween … or had it?
No, these are all British, Scottish, and Welsh charms (Mrs Daffodil cannot be certain if they are also Irish, but that is probable.) The box of sweets, too, is universal, if not so ancient a custom.