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What Was It Like To Celebrate Halloween With Queen Victoria?
History - Science
Although much of the ancient folklore behind Halloween was around during the reign of Queen Victoria, the conservative Christian-based standards of that era meant some looked down upon the more supernatural aspects of the holiday. However, Victoria loved Halloween, and for decades, she threw her own Halloween celebrations in Scotland, far from the watchful eye of the English court.
Victoria's first documented exposure to a Halloween celebration was in Scotland, where the Celtic holiday called Samhain once flourished, a celebration upon which many modern Halloween traditions are based. Once introduced to the Halloween tradition, Victoria would travel to Balmoral Castle with her youngest children each year for the holiday to a point that it came to be known as the "Queen's Halloween."
Among other aspects of the festivities was a large bonfire in which an effigy of a witch known as "shandry dann" was tossed on the flames by a servant of the queen, dressed as a hobgoblin. The annual burning of the effigy grew to include a mock trial scenario during which "shandry dann" was never found innocent and soon, other "demon" effigies were burned, including one that looked uncomfortably close to then-British Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone.
Along with the bonfires, there were processions led by the queen and a piper with as many as 100 local residents, with reels — a type of traditional Scottish dancing — and bagpipes. All told, Queen Victoria's Halloween celebrations at Balmoral sometimes grew out of control — in 1874, the planned dance party in the Balmoral ballroom was called off by the queen because the partygoers were too riled up.
Following the death of her husband, Victoria controversially grew close to a man named John Brown, a Highland ghillie — something like a traditional Scottish nature guide or outdoorsman. No one's quite sure why, but beginning in 1883, around the same time that John Brown himself died, the queen and her family’s travel to Scotland for Halloween became less and less frequent.