Happy Halloween to our readers! We recognize that many of our non-American readers might not celebrate the holiday, but whether you celebrate it or not, we hope you all enjoy our look at some GWTW-era Halloween traditions, along with a special slideshow of fancy dress fashion plates.
Let's get things started. Back in the day, Halloween was celebrated more in the British Isles than on the U.S. side of the Atlantic. The handy Godey's Lady's Book explains more in this October 1872 essay about Halloween customs on both sides of the pond:
About the day itself there is nothing in any wise peculiar or worthy of notice, but since time almost immemorial All Hallow Eve, or Halloween, has formed the subject theme of fireside chat and published story. There is, perhaps, no night in the year which the popular imagination of the Old World has stamped with a more peculiar character than the evening of the 31st of October…
There is a remarkable uniformity in the fireside customs of this night throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Nuts and apples are everywhere in requisition, and are consumed in immense numbers. From this fact the name of “Nutcrack Night” has often been applied, especially by the people of the north of England… But the grand sport of Halloween is the “ducking.” A number of apples are placed in a tub of water, and the juveniles— the use of their hands restricted— take turns in diving therefor, catching them with their teeth.
In this country Halloween was for a time strictly observed, but of late years it has been forgotten by almost all, except the juveniles. Amongst the old-style English, Irish, Scotch, and Welsh residents, the games mentioned above are practiced to some extent, and the occasion is also made noticeable for the baking of the old-fashioned potato pudding. Amongst the American people but little other sport is indulged in than the drinking, by the country folk, of hard cider, and the masticating of indigestible “crullers,” or “doughnuts.” The gamins make use of the festival to batter down panels, dislocate bell-wires, unhinge gates, destroy cabbage-patches, and raise a row generally.
--Godey's Lady's Book, October 1872
Of course, these days, most people associate Halloween with dressing up in costumes and while that wasn't the practice in Scarlett's era, we couldn't let the day go by without mention of Victorian fancy dress...or fashion plates. You see, although it wasn't a Halloween tradition, fancy dress parties in general were part of high-society social calendars. Costumes of literary or historical figures were popular choices, as were peasant costumes or "native" dress from foreign lands. Other common sartorial choices included representations of nature or the four seasons.
So in honor of Halloween and Victorian costume parties, we've got a colorful selection of GWTW-era fancy dress styles below for you to enjoy. Happy Halloween!