Article by: Coletta Daniel
Did you ever wonder why we dress-up in Costumes for Halloween? What started it all? If it started as a "dark" holiday, why are we now justified to dress in "Happy" Costumes? We dress in Costumes like "Clowns" or "Fairies".."Movie Stars" or "Cute Little Animals". "Monsters" and "Ghosts" are good too of course...but NOT the manditory thing... any more.
Halloween is one of our most beloved and fun Holidays. It has been with us through history, possibly longer than one might imagine. In the beginning the costumes were aLL...as necessary for certain purposes...rather on the SCARY side...most often to discourage evil spirits. Over the ages however, different religions, traditions, ideals, and ideas have blended together to the point that HALLOWEEN COSTUMES can be just about anything you'd LIKE. Keep in mind that humans seem to have a heartfelt and never-discouraged desire to take the edge off of almost anything sad, difficult, or truely SCARY ...Then do whatever we can in adjustment ...to make that situation cheery...if not, all-out FUN! That is exactly what has happened to an occasion that once was a time to mourn and appease the dead. It is now a night of Candied, Costumed, "Trick-or Treat" bliss for our youngins'...and possibly a Costumed,Partied, Mysterious, (maybe even "romantic"), night for Adults.
It all began like this:
(as near as I can tell through diligent research :-)
Approximately 2,000 years ago the Celts celebrated their New Year with a festival called Samhain (Sow-in). It was on November 1st which was the beginning of a long, dark, and cold winter in their part of the world, which is now the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Northern France. It was harvest time which one would THINK would be a time to celebrate..but the time was over-shadowed by the upcoming winter which was a season associated with darkness, sickness, and too often, death. It was thought that on the night before Samhain the boundries between the dead and the living were, for a time, opened up, allowing the dead to freely wander in our world. In order to avoid mischief by the spirits, the men would dress as ghosts or demons...or sometimes terrifying animal creatures..and wander the streets and alleyways, guarding children who, on that nite, had their own ritual to perform. The children would be out knocking on doors looking for sweet soul-cakes baked for the spirits. A deal could be made for the soul-cakes. In exchange for a soul-cake a child would say a prayer for the soul of a deceased loved one...the better to get that soul to Heaven. There it might finally rest in peace instead of coming back to haunt again NEXT Samhain. The children didn't yet dress in costume for this occasion that anyone is aware of...BUT..as you may note..the childrens ritual was a BIT like todays "trick-or-treat".
As change does occur, the Romans eventually conquered the Celts and took over their territory..bringing with them a few new festivals to combine with Samhain. One festival, on a day in late October, was pretty much the same as the Celt's Samhain,in that, it honored the passing of the dead. It was called Feralia. The other Occasion was one honoring the Roman Goddess of fruit and trees, Pomona. Pamonas symbol was the "apple" which was added to the celebration of Samhain. One might assume that this is where the modern day tradition of "Bobbing for Apples" came from. By this time, adults and children alike dressed in costume to suit which ever festival or affair they were attending. Now some of the costumes were of a gentler type to honor the Goddess Pomona. Nymph and Fairy Costumes came into play. Clowns and Jesters joined in to please the crowds in attendence.There were still those who dressed to stand guard against wandering spirits though, especially on Samhain's Eve. They dressed in Costumes of Ghouls and SCARY Animals.
By the year 800, Christian influences had reached Celtic lands. The Pope, desiring Samhain be more of a "church oriented" occasion...deemed November 1st be "All Saints Day", a day to honor saints and martyrs. The celebration was also called "All-Hallowmas" which was Middle English for "All Saints Day". Eventually, as we know, the night before became "All Hallows Eve" and then "Halloween" as it is today.
NOW the Festival Costumes would include Angels and Saints. As people began immigrating to America they brought their various Halloween traditions with them, but because of religous differences the Holdiay was kept stiffled for a time. Then the traditions of European ethnic groups and the American Indians began to blend together and Halloween became, once again, a celebration of the Harvest. The first American version included public events to celebrate the Harvest as a GOOD and HAPPY time. Neighbors still gathered and shared stories of the deceased ..More in a way to honor them than to be afraid of their deceased spirits though. This tells us of a maturity for mankind not before known. The people ALSO gathered to Tell Fortunes, Sing Songs and Dance. In the evening there were Ghost Stories and Games.
As the influx of immigrants continued in the second half of the 1800, taking from both Irish and English traditions, people began dressing up in Costumes and going from door- to-door ..asking for food or money. This is said to actually be where "trick-or-treat" originated. When some people were turned away, empty-handed, from a door...there would be a threat made to send evil spieits to haunt that household. By the late 1800's people wanted Halloween to be something different than what it had become. They decided to make it a time for "Community" rather than for the dead, ghosts, and pranks. They began having parties for adults and for children to celebrate Halloween as a fun time. GONE was most of the superstition and the connection with the church during this Holiday.
Up until around the 1950s Halloween remained completely a Community project with parties and parades for all in every town or city. However..Vandalism began to break out at many of the celebrations so, again, changes were needed. Trick-or treating, focusing on the children, came back into the picture at last. It came back, Costumes and all and here it has stayed as an American Tradition ever since.
Thanks to the European and Celtic communities, who believed that if they dressed in a disguise or "Costume" ..on a certain SCARY night...they would not be recognised by ghosts or evil spirits. And thanks to all of the people down through the ages that did not lose track of the wonderful idea of COSTUMES...Today we are able to dress-UP for the Event of "Halloween" and we can choose to be anything or anyBODY we wish to be.
The above article is as "factual" as I can figure considering my research on the topic. I have an imagination that tells me that "Costumes" began WAY before "Halloween" was even a thought. But that's a different story. :-)
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