The Haunting History of Halloween Costumes
With a holiday that’s built around sweets, spooky legends, and glorious weather, there’s plenty to love about Halloween. However, its most unique feature (some might say the best) is the celebrators’ penchant for costumes.
So why do we dress up for this holiday?
To answer that question, one has to go back to the holiday’s origin, Samhain. Ancient Celts believed that on this harvest holiday, the veil between the physical world and the spiritual was thin. With this slight barrier, spirits could escape and walk amongst the living. In order to avoid hauntings or magical mischief, humans donned costumes to deter detection from the specters. Thus formed the ancient roots of wearing Halloween costumes. As the traditions of the Celts gave way to Christianity, the holiday became All Hallow’s Eve (the origin of the word Halloween). However, the folk practice of costumes continued.
While colonists brought the idea of Halloween to the United States, an influx of Irish Immigrants in the 19th century strengthened the tie between the holiday and the US. Halloween parties and, in turn, costumes rose in popularity and never quite stopped. While reveler wore various themed costumes, traditional spooky motifs such as witches, ghosts, and black cats reigned supreme.
Halloween saw its first bout of commercialization in the Victorian era with knick-knacks and holiday cards, still, most people wore homemade costumes. It only took a few more decades before the commercialization of costumes to really begin. In the 1930s, merrymakers could find pre-made costumes in stores. In the following decades, costumes moved away from those traditional Halloween motifs. Costumes reflected characters from television, movies, books, and more, just like today!