October 31st, 2011
Halloween, with costumes and candy (or booze, in our neighborhood, just a few blocks from the famed Greenwich Village Halloween Parade) is a modern invention. It was, of course, originally All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day, which is then followed by All Souls Day. The paganish roots of the customs we now keep are often traced to the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain.
Most mid-19th century Americans did not celebrate Hallowe’en, though the Irish immigrants were rumored to carve turnips into funny faces and place candles inside. These little lanterns placed in a window would keep away the roaming spirits, given free reign for one night a year.
I was curious to see if there were any books mentioning Hallowe’en in the mid-19th century, and I came up with this gem: