Sunday, October 27, 2013
Coffin Hop: Examining the History of Halloween Costumes
Halloween is one of most children's favorite holidays. It is a time for children to dress up and take on an alter ego while trolling about the neighborhood looking for candy. However, costumes were not always a holiday tradition in America. The history of Halloween costumes is relatively recent, despite being rooted in an ancient tradition.
Most believe that the current tradition of Halloween extends back to the pagan New Year's festival of Samhain which was in existence over 2000 years ago. The pagans believed that ghosts of the dead and other spiritual entities walked about at this time. Thus, it was not uncommon for people to disguise themselves to confuse the spirits.
Later the Roman Catholic church would establish a holiday on November 1, All Saints' Day to counter the pagan festivals. However, with the proximity, the pagan festivals ironically adopted the name "All Hallow's Eve" or Halloween. However, at this time the celebration of Halloween was not actually associated with costumes.
The recent history of Halloween costumes appears to have started in 1895 in Scotland. Those who went house to house were referred to as "guisers." The tradition found its way into America in the early 1900s with the arrival of many Irish immigrants. The very first recorded instance of Halloween costumes in America was in 1911 in Kingston, Ohio.
Initial costumes tended to have a pagan theme to them. However, after the 1930s, children started to imitate more popular characters as they do today. Initially the costumes were largely confined to children going trick of treating. Later in the century, it was even fashionable for adults to dress up for their own Halloween parties.
The history of Halloween costumes is relatively brief in its modern incarnation, although some of the recent inspiration could be taken from ancient Celtic traditions. Most likely, it is a tradition that will continue for centuries in the future as both children and adults get to pretend to be someone else for at least one day a year.
Thanks for stopping by for day four of Coffin Hop! Go to Coffin Hop 2013 to visit the other blogs participating in the hop.