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Monthly Archives: February 2014

  • Halloween Costumes

    Halloween Costumes


    Halloween costumes dates back to at least the 16th century, when participants would go door-to-door in disguise, reciting poetry or singing songs to get a reward. Scottish children would paint their faces and threaten people with mischief if they were not welcomed by the inhabitants. In some places, children dressed up as the opposite gender. Although it seems like our trick-or-treating must be contemporary traditions, they have long roots in Celtic and Christian traditions.


    People began to wear costumes because they traditionally believed that the souls of the dead wandered the earth all year until All Saint’s Day – the day after Halloween. Halloween, therefore, was their last chance to take revenge upon their enemies. In order to hide from the spirits, the people were superstitious and believed that if they disguised themselves well enough, they would not be detected. And what disguise should they choose? Well, saints and other dead people, of course. They pretended to be dead so they could be undetected as a living being.


    Costume parties originated around this time as well. The danse macabre, which was a celebration thought to be held by the spirits themselves, would be reenacted by children on Halloween. This gathering is supposed to have influenced our Halloween gatherings today. Then in the 19th century, America began having great costumed parades with much illicit behavior. The Victorian era made these parades more private, in people’s homes, so there we have costume parties. At this time, costumes were made at home.


    This changed in the 1930s, when some firms began mass-production of Halloween costumes. At the same time, trick-or-treating gained popularity in America. Costumes were still made to imitate the supernatural, so there were many werewolves, devils, witches, etc. Now, this has evolved to include any fantasy characters, no matter how scary or not-scary they may be. They choose their characters based simply on who they want to emulate that night, whether it is a pop culture figure, a political head, a cartoon character, or a character in a movie or video game.


    And most people have dropped the belief that they must hide from the spirits with their costumes by disguising themselves as spirits. Halloween costumes related to the supernatural are still popular, but they are also parts of other worlds of costume genres. From TV shows to books to video games, the fantasy genre has expanded to include creatures form our imaginations that have nothing to do with religion. Not to mention, Halloween costumes have spilled over into real life, or vice-versa. People dress “topically” at costume parties, or they emulate their favorite political figure, their favorite pop star, their favorite TV show host, etc. Halloween costumes have come a long way from their religious backgrounds!




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