The Historical Origins of Halloween Costumes

We don Halloween costumes for fun, but the origins of this ancient custom go back to 2,000 years ago, when Celts wore crude costumes to celebrate Samhain. Halloween costumes have a long, somewhat dark history that we've thrown out in the spirit of treat-or-treating cheer, and some Christians refuse to celebrate it because of its pagan origins. So what are the true origins of Halloween costumes, what is Samhain, and how did this tradition develop into what it is today? The Ancient Origins of Halloween Costumes The ancient origins of Halloween costumes originate from 2,000 years ago, from a sacred Celtic festival called Samhain.

Pronounced sow-en, Samhain was an important festival in Celtic culture, celebrating the end of a year and representing the final harvest for farmers. Since Samhain signified the end of a year, Celts also associated it with human death. They believed that on the night of October 31st, ghosts returned to earth, causing trouble for the living. They also believed it made it easier for Druids to make predictions about the future. Celts would celebrate this ancient holiday by drawing huge bonfires, built by Druids. They would burn crops and animals in the bonfire as sacrifices to Celtic gods and goddesses, while donning costumes made from animal heads and skin.

These were the ancient origins of today's Halloween costumes. By 43 A.D., Romans ruled most of Celtic territory. During the Romans' 400 year rule over the Celts, their traditions combined to create a new Samhain. Celts soon celebrated a historical Roman holiday called Feralia, celebrated in late October.

Feralia honored the passing of the dead, which was very similar to Samhain's traditions. The day after that was set aside to honor the Roman goddess Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. It's believed that the origins of bobbing for apples came from this.

The Origins of Christian Rule on Halloween Christianity had spread into Celtic territory by the 800s. In an attempt to eradicate Samhain, Pope Boniface IV made November 1 All Saints' Day, making the Celtic festival a church-approved holiday. All Saints' Day was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and the night before All Saints' Day was called All-hallows Eve.

In the year 1000 the Catholic Church made November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was very similar to Samhain because they also drew huge bonfires. Christians would usually light big bonfires, dressed up in Christian-approved Halloween costumes (such as a saint or devil) and have parades, honoring the dead. During the celebrations, poorer residents begged for food. Families would give these residents soul cakes, a type of pastry -- but only if they prayed for their family's dead relatives. The church encouraged families to do this instead of leaving out food during the night.

The church wanted to curb non-residents from entering the city and taking advantage of the free food. These were the origins of trick-or-treating. All-hallows Eve, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day were celebrated for many centuries, collectively called Hallowmas. This holiday eventually turned into what we know today as Halloween. Happy Halloween! The Origins of Halloween Costumes in North America When Europeans immigrated to colonial America in the 1700s, they also brought the tradition of Samhain-inspired Halloween. Halloween wasn't celebrated openly at first because Christians believed it was a pagan holiday, but it was openly celebrated in Maryland.

The meshing of different ethnic groups, including the Native Americans, formed a new form of Halloween, closely matching modern America's version of Halloween. The first official celebrations included public events celebrating the last harvest, where people would tell stories of the dead, read each other's fortunes, and dance. Halloween didn't truly become a holiday until the 1800s, when an influx of immigrants moved to America. When European immigrants flooded America in the 1800s, Halloween surged into American tradition, transforming into today's version of this popular holiday. Americans wore Halloween costumes to celebrate the holiday, going from house to house asking for food or money.

This was the start of modern America's historical trick-or-treat tradition. During the late 1800s, Americans tried to change the pagan theme of Halloween into a more acceptable, kid-friendly holiday with appropriate Halloween costumes. They emphasized community and get-togethers rather than the theme of ghosts and witchcraft. During the beginning of the twentieth century, parents were encouraged to remove any pagan-themed costumes out of Halloween celebrations.

For the most part that didn't work, thanks to America's budding movie industry. Halloween Costumes Return To Their Pagan Roots By The Twentieth Century By the 1920s, Halloween became a non-religious holiday focused on community entertainment, including big parades. In 1920, Anoka, Minnesota was the first city to hold an official citywide Halloween celebration. It's believed the origins of modern trick-or-treating, modern day Halloween, Halloween costumes, and Halloween parades came from Anoka's first celebrations. Today Anoka regards itself as the Halloween Capital of the World.

By the 1950s, Halloween evolved into a children's holiday. Every Halloween children dressed up in their scariest costumes (movies such as The Wizard of Oz and Dracula revived these creepy Halloween costumes) and walked from door to door, yelling "Trick or treat!", opening up their bags for a tasty treat. Many beliefs about paganism's connection with Halloween dissolved, allowing this sinister holiday to blossom into what it is today.

By 2000, Halloween costumes were a booming industry, making it America's second biggest holiday. Halloween costumes also catered to adults, providing sexy costumes such as the naughty nurse for adult after-parties. This is the end of its evolution in modern day America. These Halloween costumes have come a long way from its origins in Celtic Ireland, transforming from costumes used to celebrate a serious Pagan holiday into a fun, kid-friendly holiday. The history of these Halloween costumes probably won't end until the holiday itself dies out -- and that future isn't going to happen in our lifetime.

Paul Hulse is the webmaster of the Halloween Costumes store Please visit us for more information on our Adult Halloween Costumes

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