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Culture > Entertainment

9 Retro Halloween Traditions that Deserve to Make a Comeback

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

Halloween these days is all about trick-or-treating and sexy costumes, but it wasn’t always that way. In the old days, Halloween was more spiritual, with many believing the veil between our world and the next was thinner. This led to some interesting traditions, including an inordinate amount of fortune telling techniques. Here’s a list of 9 Halloween traditions that definitely deserve to make a comeback:


1. Romantic Mirror Rituals

On Halloween night, aspiring warlocks and witches would perform a strange ritual to determine the face of their future SO. By using a hand mirror to look in another full-body mirror behind you and taking six steps away from the mirror, you supposedly can summon the spirit of your future love into the mirror. But if you turn around too quickly, you may lose them forever. Try it out, but don’t get too anxious and perform the ritual too soon. It only works just before midnight.


2. Ghost Parties

If you’re looking for party hosting ideas, try hosting a “ghost” party. Declare yourself “High Ghost” and send all the invitees death certificates with the date, time and address. Encourage all attendees to wear bed sheets and provide them with spooky treats like sand-”witches” and deviled eggs. Make sure to have fun activities for the “dead” to do, like decorating cupcake gravestones and playing “Guess the Cause of Death,” where attendees mime their deaths in a spooky game of charades.


3. Yarn in a Barn

Another solo fortune telling activity to do any night in October requires blue yarn and a dark barn. Throw the yarn into a darkened barn and wait for it to be tugged on by a “spirit.” When you feel the tug, call out “Who goes there?” The name shouted back to you is the name of your true love! There’s one problem with this ritual: a friend or enemy may follow you to the barn and shout back their own name or the name of someone else as a prank. Beware of fake spirits!


4. Find the Witch’s Cat

A fun game to play throughout the month of October, or just at a Halloween party, is Find the Witch’s Cat. Similar to a Halloween version of “Elf on the Shelf,” you get a small black cat doll and move it throughout the house into different positions. When it’s found, the person to find it hides the cat again for the next person to find.


5. Cabbage Patches

Although it’s tough these days to find one, a cabbage patch can also serve as a tool for fortune telling. Blindfold yourself and walk towards the middle of the field. When you feel the need, pull up a cabbage stalk and return the way you came. After you leave the patch, take off your blindfold and examine the stalk to determine the attractiveness and character of your future SO. The prettier the stalk, the kinder and hotter the spouse.


6. Graveyard Ghost Processions

You could also spend your Halloween night in a graveyard next to a church, keeping an eye out for the wandering souls.  An ancient Welsh tradition, re-popularized by Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Raven Boys,” claims that the souls of those who will die in the coming year will march silent through the graveyard.  Find some friends, grab some blankets, snacks, and candles, and wait for some good scares.


7. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Bonfire

Another vintage way to divine future relationships requires chestnuts. Light a fire in your hearth and throw a pair of chestnuts into the fire. How they react to the heat will tell you the current state and future of your relationship. If the nuts burn quietly, it indicates true affection, crackling and jumping nuts signify unfaithfulness, and when the two nuts seal together, a marriage is in your future. This ritual can be performed solo or, for more fun and teasing, with a group of friends.


8. Serious Pranking

Just 100 years ago, Halloween used to be a night of pranks instead of parties and trick-or-treating. It wasn’t until the ’30s, when “pranks” started morphing into serious crimes like vandalism and theft that trick-or-treating was popularized to keep kids busy. I say we go back to the old days, when teens spent Halloween disassembling their neighbors’ horse and buggies and reassembling them in their houses, or kidnapping goats and hiding them in chimneys. The egging and teepeeing just isn’t cutting it.


9. Fire of Love

The last fortune telling trick requires a party of people. “Fire of Love” is a fun party pastime in which all attendees write their names on a piece of paper and make a tiny boat out of it. Fill a large bucket or tub with water and place all the boats in. Then, place a candle on a cork and light it. Allow the floating candle to burn up all the boats until it goes out.  The remaining boats contain the names of those who will never marry…

Kelly is a freshman studying Biomedical Engineering at Saint Louis University. In her free time, she enjoys running, reading, writing, and playing Ultimate Frisbee. She plans to pursue a career in prosthetics.
Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Saint Louis University. She is a Junior studying English and American Studies with a primary interest in 20th-Century and Contemporary American Literature, particularly semi-autobiographical fiction and novels that celebrate diversity within the fabric of American society and culture. Sarah is originally from Minneapolis, MN (and will talk your ear off about it) and loves all things literature, intersectional feminisim, travel, food, and politics. Ask her for recommendations for exciting new novels or local restaurants, and she will gladly oblige!