Spooky Traditions — The Origin of Halloween Costumes

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Photo: Nationalgeographic.com

Photo: Nationalgeographic.com

We’ve tackled already the traditions of jack-o’-lanterns, and now we’re ready to dive into the history of halloween costumes! On Halloween you see costumes ranging from spooky monsters to Hollywood icons and everything in between roaming down the streets. From the tiniest of babies in their first pumpkin costume to puppies donning wigs to resemble Dorothy from Wizard of OZ (being Toto would be too obvious), October 31st is a day of dress-up celebrations. Where and when did this spooky and sweet tradition start? Let’s find out!

History of Halloween Costumes in Europe

Photo: Attireclub.org

Photo: Attireclub.org

Similar to the tradition of the jack-o’-lantern, many beliefs of the origin of Halloween costumes point back to Europe. Once again, we see that Samhain in Ireland (the time between sunset on October 31st and sunset on November 1st when spirits are believed to be present) plays a big role in the beginning of costumes. At the beginning people would go from house to house in costume, singing and performing in exchange for some type of food. If food wasn’t given, those in costume would threaten mischief of sorts.

Again, we recall written words to see the first documented acknowledgement of costumes during this time of Prince Sorie Conteh. The Prince wrote, “It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities.” Indeed, the scariest costumes kept you out of harms way of spiteful departed souls!

History of Halloween Costumes in the United States

Photo: Vintagehalloween.com

Photo: Vintagehalloween.com

The earliest history of Halloween costumes that we see in the United States dates back to the early 1900s, the time when a local newspaper in Ohio reported on children guising around the neighborhood. The time of Halloween in the US was often celebrated with public parades and parties until the Victorian morals of the time resulted in private celebrations only. Then, only children were encouraged to celebrate, and costumes were generally gothic in nature and crafted from items that were readily available at home. Finally, in the 1930’s companies started to mass produce costumes, and trick-or-treating became widely accepted throughout the states.

Modern Day Halloween Costumes

Photo: Brit.co

Photo: Brit.co

Today, we’ve come full circle. Halloween costumes include everything from monsters and current-day pop culture icons to political satire and historical figures, and many of them are homemade again. In fact, we’re seeing a lot of people dropping the shopping bags these days to return to the classic tradition of making their halloween costumes themselves, which is great! The amount of money spent last year on halloween is quite alarming- about $2.8 billion on costumes and $350 million on pet costumes. Yup, you read that right! In total there was $7.8 billion spent on halloween festivities in the US (including candy and decorations). A spooky tradition meant to conceal yourself from the active spirits on All Hallows Eve and guise around your neighborhood has now turned into a multibillion dollar event! Pretty spooky, huh?

Did we miss any spooky stories of the tradition of Halloween costumes? Let us know in the comments!