The History of Halloween Costumes: Why Do Children Dress Up for Halloween?

The History of Halloween Costumes: Why Do Children Dress Up for Halloween?

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Yesterday we looked at the first part of the history of Halloween, which focused mainly on the original religious connections and a brief look at trick or treating. Part of trick or treating now involves getting dressed up in costumes. In fact, one of the favourite parts of Halloween is dressing up. It’s fun for adults and children.

But why do we get dressed up? What’s the big deal for this part of the year? Is it just part of the American traditions or are there deeper roots? Here’s a look at the history of Halloween costumes.


The Links to Samhain

If you haven’t ready yesterday’s post about the history of Halloween, I’d suggest checking it out now. It goes through the traditions of Samhain, which links to why we wear costumes.

The festivities included costumes. But they weren’t for the same reasons as they are today. The main reason was for the festivities and because of the belief that the line between the living and the dead became blurred.

There were some who believed that wearing costumes would hide individuals from the dead. It would prevent mischief from the ghosts who paid a visit on the day.

‘Guising’ In the 1500s

The first reports of going door-to-door in costume was in the 1500s. People would visit homes dressed in a disguise to beg for food. This links back to the original reason for trick or treating—asking for money or food. People didn’t want to be recognized, so the disguise was a way to get around that.

Some of the theories still link to the roots of Halloween. People believed that they would get some of the offerings that were given to the souls of the dead by pretending to be one of them. They could pretend to be someone from the dead to demand reward for good favour. Those who didn’t give food would risk bad tidings.

Towards the Victorian era, ‘guising’ became frowned upon. Celebrating Halloween wasn’t something to do, especially in northern American states where the people were extremely religious. Only children were supposed to celebrate the night, and the costumes tended to be more Gothic and homemade.

A Move to Dressing Up for Fun

Around the 1930s, the market changed. Halloween became more commercialised and there was a move into opting for popular characters from film and books. Firms started to mass-produce them for the fun of the night.

While there were the traditional zombies, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and other similar costumes, popular books and movies were used for ideas for costumes. There were superheroes, aliens, and other sci-fi and fantasy creatures. Even celebrities and athletes were used as inspiration for dressing up.

Now the Western World especially celebrates the fun side of Halloween, with dressing up and trick or treating. Children and adults wear their costumes and attend parties usually on the Friday or Saturday closest to Halloween.

Did you know this history of Halloween costumes? Most of the activities and events are linked to the Samhain roots but some of it now has just turned into something fun to do.

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