Learn the true history of dressing up on Halloween


Every year on Halloween, children and adults all over the world dress up in costumes and storm the streets; ringing doorbells and demanding candy “from total strangers”. According to the Tech Times, the average American spends at least $77. 52 on Halloween costumes every year. So the real questions is; why do we really wear costumes on October 31st?

The tradition of dressing up on Halloween comes from an ancient Celtic festival called, “Samhain”, which meant, “summer’s end”. This was the Celtic version of New Years, and it honored the harvest and production of crops. Celtic people believed that on this night on October 31st, the barrier between the living and the dead became slim, and spirits would come back from the dead and cause damage; ruining crops and causing loads of trouble. On the night of October 31st, the Celtic people would hide in fear inside their homes, and leave food, drink and sweets out to please the deceased souls.

Eventually, as time went on, children dressed up in order to steal the treats that people put out for the Samhain festival. And thus, the first Halloween costumes were born. Children would put sheets over their bodies and call themselves “ghosts”; scaring the townspeople and stealing the offerings left out for the dead. When the Romans invaded what is now present day France, many traditions began to become mixed.

Screenshot 2016-01-19 at 22.16.06

Halloween costumes in the first half of the 20th century

Photo by vintag.es

In the Roman church, “All Saints Day”, was referred to as “All Hallows Eve”, and was celebrated on November 1st. Eventually, the Celtic people immigrated to America, and that is how the tradition of dressing up became prevalent in the American Society. During the 19th and early 20th century, Scottish and Irish immigrants brought Halloween folklore to North America, and the idea that Halloween was a time for spirits and the dead. They also brought with them interesting and peculiar costumes and different behavior on the day of October 31st. Most people quickly adapted to Halloween; some people were not happy with the tradition. Although Halloween is a beloved Holiday to some; to others it is a frightening ritual that defies religion.  

In the 1950’s, there was a controversy about the Holiday of Halloween. The people of the French Catholic Church believed that Halloween was actually a satanic ritual that was made to worship the devil. Luckily for Halloween enthusiasts, that idea was dismissed and forgotten. Eventually in 1982, and Halloween was declared a “non-satanic” holiday. In 1911, the first record of “guising”, was documented. The act of “guising”, was the act of dressing in costume and parading the streets. After that, Halloween became a holiday of fun and costuming.  

As Halloween became a nationally celebrated holiday, costumes became popular, and the tradition of “trick-or-treating” continued on. “Guising”, became a Halloween tradition, and costume corporations have skyrocketed. Today, the holiday has influenced many different cultures, and it has a very large effect on the world. So there you have it; that is the basic history of dressing up for Halloween.

By Alissa Saylor

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