Halloween Costumes and How They Came About

Who will be first to ring your doorbell on Halloween? A ghost, a witch, a pumpkin with arms, or Minnie Mouse or a Super Mario brother?

Today costumes are one of the most important elements of Halloween, for both children and some adults. Today’s costumes include the traditional disguises associated with Halloween but will also include popular characters from television and movies; political masks are popular with the older crowds.

The tradition of dressing up on Halloween has a somewhat uncertain source. In the Celtic religion, the Druids (the religious leaders) dressed in feathers and furs as part of the Samhain celebration, but more likely the tradition came from Scotland. The earliest record of “guising” in that country dates to 1895, where masqueraders in disguise carried lanterns made out of scooped out turnips. They visited homes and were given cakes, fruit and money.

Costumes and Halloween

In the late 1800s in England, parties on Halloween often involved performing in a pageant, so adults became accustomed to the idea of costumes on the holiday. The tradition seemed to spread to America for adults in the early part of the 20th century.

By the 1930s, the tradition was fully inherited by children, and the custom of dressing in costume on Halloween became fully entrenched. The first mass-produced costumes were sold in stores in the 1930s when trick-or-treating became more widespread.

During the 1950s, maternal creativity often found an outlet in homemade costumes, but as more women entered the workforce–and as more adults began attending their own holiday parties–costumes purchased in stores now dominate. This year zombies are expected to be the most popular costume worn by adults and children.

For more on Halloween see “Why Carved Pumpkins are a Symbol of Halloween  Mischief Preceded Trick or Treating” and “Countdown to Halloween.”

Happy Halloween!

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