The Queer History of Halloween 

By Lily Matt 

Initially a pagan holiday which can be tied to the Celtic “Samhain,” or fire harvest festival, Halloween has become entrenched into American culture. But the origins of this holiday are a lot more queer than one might think. The Celts have little to no records of their own so many historians rely on the writing of other groups such as the Romans to fill in historical blanks. Aristotle in particular praised the Celts for their homosexuality while frowning upon their widely accepted polyamorous practices, especially in regards to marriage. Halloween continued to grow from there, with notable Irish and Roman influence, however, queer culture with regards to Halloween really begins to flourish in the late 1800s. The first Halloween drag ball took place at the Hamilton lodge in Harlem in 1869. These parties (although later deemed “immoral” and “dangerous” in the 1900s) became a place for queer individuals to be themselves and helped “outcasts” create a community. Gender bending costumes became so common in mainstream events that in 1914, the Pittsburgh police announced that they would no longer arrest individuals for cross dressing. It is important to acknowledge the Harlem Renaissance and black LGBTQ+ individuals as the catalysts for many of these events. In the mid 1950s, the Castro district in San Francisco became a hub for these drag balls, however, police officers were still known to raid these parties and charge those in drag with identity theft. After, Stonewall parties began to start up again and today Halloween is a favorite holiday of many children and adults alike. Halloween has a hidden history of joy and acceptance which can be traced back for hundreds of years—it has influenced modern pride parades, and even created real change in society. Halloween, or Gay Christmas as it is often fondly called, is a time of acceptance and celebration so make sure to enjoy it this year and while you are, take a second to remember the roots of this awesome holiday.