Halloween Costumes

Halloween - Why People Dress up in Halloween Costumes

It is not hard to imagine anyone reading the title above and immediately thinking of Halloween activities like dressing up in Halloween costumes or "trick or treating", pumpkins as lanterns and all sorts of costumes, especially those of the ghostly variety. But, most of the above are creations during the relatively recent 20th Century, and to find the origins of Halloween we have to go back much further, and particularly across the seas to find the beautiful, green and verdant island, known as Ireland.

The early Irish people were Celtic tribes, similar to those found in Scotland, Wales, Breton (Northern France) and Galicia (an ancient region of N W Spain). The Celts embraced Paganism, one of many hundreds or even thousands of belief systems that were very common in the days before the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and are still popular today (eg: Wiccan). The Pagan Celts all spoke Gaelic, although with some differences in each location. No one at that time, however, had yet heard of Halloween.

The ancient Celtic tribes believed that the dividing line between the living and the dead became dangerous for the living on 31st October, when the change in the weather had become much cooler (colder) leading to sicknesses and damage to crops. So, they tried to ward off the perceived evil spirits by lighting bonfires where the bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Just like at modern Halloween, at these new festivals, masks and Halloween costumes were worn, making them look like evil spirits, in an attempt to placate them and send them far away.

One of the names for these festivals (feast days) was on the eve of Samhain, 31st October, about to be the eve of All Hallows Day, and soon to be known as Halloween.

With the advent of Christianity, in the first Millennium, celebrations had begun of a Festival called All Saints Day, which was also known as All Hallows or Hallowmass, and was celebrated on 13th May. (Hallow means to make Holy.) The day before All Hallows was called All Hallows Even, and thus shortened to Hallowe'en, and then to the Halloween we have today. Gradually, many of the Pagan traditions of Samhain, begun to be incorporated into Halloween, particularly the attempts to ward off the evil spirits, as described earlier, with the costumes and masks.

The main modern Halloween activities for children today, especially in North America, are 'trick or treating', lantern lighting and dressing in Halloween costumes. It appears that this did not really start until the early part of the 20th Century. The first known reference to what is really ritualized begging on Halloween, was reported in 1911, in a Canadian newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, not far from the border with upstate New York. The paper reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising on Halloween between 6 and 7pm dressed in costumes, visiting shops and neighbors, to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs.

Guising comes from an old Scottish practice, when children in Scotland and northern England would wear a Halloween-like costume or disguise, at Halloween, when they went out for their special treats. The major difference to the 'trick or treat' practiced today in America, is that in Scotland (and probably Ireland too), the children are only supposed to receive treats if they perform for the households to which they go. This normally takes the form of singing a song, reciting a poem or even a joke. Occasionally a particularly talented child might do card tricks or play a musical instrument, but most children will receive their treat for doing something quite simple. There was no practice of performing a trick on the householder or neighbor.

Another interpretation of the origins of 'trick or treat', is said to come from the practice of dressing up in Halloween type costumes and begging door-to-door for treats on holidays. This goes way back to the Middle Ages, and even includes Christmas wassailing - carol singing.

Trick or treating has some resemblance to the old Irish and British practice of 'souling', when poor folk would go door-to-door on Hallowmass (1st November), and be given food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (2nd November). This practice was even common throughout much of continental Europe, even as far as the south of Italy. It's even mentioned by Shakespeare in his comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The halloween trick element of the practice seems to be very modern, and probably in the 1930s in the United States, although exactly where, is unknown for certain. Even how it started is also rather a mystery, although it seems it may have begun when children were refused treats in the years of the Great Depression, and some decided to take their revenge by playing tricks on the householders. These were however, harmless fun tricks like spraying a little water, or going back after the door had been shut, knocking on the door or ringing the bell and running away. Unfortunately in some places these tricks have become nothing short of vandalism and in the UK these days, the police regularly issue warnings before Halloween that anyone caught vandalizing would be dealt with severely, with the full force of the law.

Dressing up in Halloween Costumes

As kids & parents take to the streets for Halloween trick-or-treating, Halloween safety becomes the primary concern. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 36.1 million children (ages 5-13) hit the streets in 2006 (down from 41 million in 2002) looking to calm their sweet tooth strapped with their best costumes for Halloween.

It's rather sad that in today's world, the fun element of Halloween activities seem to have disappeared in some places. Not only in North America but in most countries, parents nearly always feel compelled to accompany their children, who might otherwise not be safe. Who can blame them, for today we read far too often of crimes where young children are the victim? Whether these crimes actually are more common or whether our media now reports it more, is a moot point, but who would want to take the chance?

So, let's try to make the best of it. Let's have a better understanding of Halloween's origins, Halloween's activities, and let's place greater emphasis on the treat rather than the trick, and above all, let's all have fun dressing up in some of the great Halloween costumes featured on our site!

About Halloween Costumes and the holiday itself

The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.

One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.

Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.

The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up in Halloween Costumes like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village dressed up in Halloween type costumes begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.

So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have Halloween parties with many of their members dressing up in Halloween costumes or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.

What is Halloween and why do people dress up in Halloween costumes?

The word "Halloween" is derived from a few things; All Saints Day (1st November), Eve of All Hallows (All Hallows Eve) or Hallow Even.

The celebration of Halloween was originally the New Years Eve of the Celts, the eve of Samhain or "Winter's Eve." It was generally believed that the dead or disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. All who were alive of course didn't want to be possessed by these lost souls so on the night of October 31st, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes to make them cold and inhospitable then dress up in ghoulish costumes and parade around the neighborhood making as much noise as possible to frighten away the spirits looking for a live body to possess. Food and drink would be left out for these villages who dressed up in Halloween costumes.

The whole custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by the Irish immigrants who were fleeing the country's potato famine. The evil side of Halloween was pushed forward mainly by the church. The church maintained that the gods and goddesses and other spiritual beings of traditional religions were diabolical deceptions and manifestations of the devil. Therefore the customs associated with Halloween such as dressing up in Halloween costumes were always represented by the church as being evil - ghosts, human skeletons, symbols of the dead, Satan and other creatures such as witches.

Adult Halloween Costumes: In the past Halloween was just a night for the little ones, but now it has become just as much fun for the adults too. Halloween Costume theme parties are a great opportunity for adults to dress up like kids and with plenty of classic adult costumes and dresses to choose from...More

Fairy Angel Wings Costume: If you want to dress up like a fairy, our cute collection of fairy costumes along with the fairy wings will give you real angel look. We offer you various types of angel costumes such as angel of death teens, gothic fairy, graveyard fairy, naughty angel, vamp fairy etc...More

Infant Toddler Costume and Baby Costumes: When Halloween comes around, parents get excited about dressing up infants and toddlers in great costumes for the photo op. Snaps of infants in baby costumes are great for slipping into Christmas cards you’re sending to family members...More

Cheap Costumes: At Halloween Costume Sale, we aim to make your Halloween celebrations more affordable with our reasonable costume rates. We offer a variety of heavily discounted cheap costumes for adults, women, children, plus sizes and even for your pets... More

Child Costume and Kids Costumes: There may be nothing cuter than seeing your little one all dressed up for Halloween and with so many costume options to choose from, it’s only a matter of time before your camera is full to brimming with cute kid snapshots...More

Costume Accessories: We feature costume accessories like Masks, Hats & Headpieces, Crowns, Tiaras, Wigs, Beards & Mustaches, Jewelry, Eyewear & Glasses, Boas, Shoes & Boots, Handbags, Gloves, Wings, Capes & Cloaks, Facial Prosthetics, and much...More

Dance Costume: Come Halloween and you can dress up as anyone. The costumes range from being scary to funny ones. For an upbeat and fun costume, you can dress up in a dance costume this Halloween or for any costume party. You simply have to select the type of dancer you want to be...More

Disney Costume: Walt Disney created some of the most endearing movie characters to ever hit the silver screen. It’s no surprise then that Disney costumes have and always will be, a staple come Halloween night. There are classic Disney costumes available for adults and kids of all ages; girls will clamor for a princess costume..More

Funny Humorous Costumes: Every body loves to host or go to parties to celebrate Halloween nights. There are many exciting and interesting funny costumes available for people of every age group for both men and women. Dress up like a mad doctor, nurse or a playboy bunny, the possibilities are endless with these costumes...More

Girl Costumes: The Disney Princesses are the most popular out of the girl costumes. With gorgeous dresses that go with Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White and Jasmine, you will surely find one that fits your little girl and that she will enjoy. Most toy stores carry these costumes year round...More

Halloween Masks: Deciding what costume you are going to wear on Halloween night may just be the start of your dress-up plans. Adding a mask, wig, or other accessories can take the ordinary costume to creepy new levels...More

Native American Indian Costume: Indian costumes are a great fun and popular at the same time. In this way you can even pay tribute to the native residents of North America. Their dressing which is far from the modern way of dressing consist of hunting knives, bow and arrow sets, necklaces, spears, boots...More

Party Costumes: Halloween parties are becoming increasingly popular and lately people go there wearing weird looking and scary party costumes. If you happen to a Halloween party wearing a scary outfit then you are sure to draw a lot of attention in the party...More

Pirate Costume: After the popularity of the Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films, games, series, novel and theme park, almost anyone has dreamed of becoming a pirate at least once a life. Whether you are an enthusiastic pirate fan or your children like to play this role, a pirate costume...More

Plus Size Costume: Halloween is the event which requires you to wear a costume especially made according to the day. These Halloween costumes are traditionally modeled after supernatural figures such as monsters, ghosts or any popular characters from movies, stories or mythological books...More

Poodle Skirt: A poodle skirt is one of the most memorable symbols of the 50s. Postwar American women sought fashions that were feminine and unique. The wide swing felt skirt of a solid bold color displayed a design appliquéd or transferred to the fabric...More

Princess Costume: Ask any little girl what she wants to be when she grows up and the answer will most likely be princess or ballerina. That’s probably why the princess costume has continued to be one of the most popular girl’s costumes since kids started trick or treating...More

Santa Costume: Dressing up doesn’t have to be a once a year event. There are plenty of holidays and occasions within a calendar to become excited about. In the dire cold of winter, you can make a Christmas truly special by wearing a Santa costume...More

Scary Costumes: If you want to make your Halloween night really scary, we can help you to look truly frightening with our monstrous selection of scary Halloween costumes. You will find plenty of witches, vampires, mummies, and other scary monsters to choose from...More

Sexy Costume: It may be the middle of fall when Halloween hits, but the night can still be hot with the help of a sexy adult costume. Tight-fitting, revealing women’s costumes can add a touch of spice and adventure to the average Halloween party and with a pair of fish-net stocking thrown...More

Spiderman Costume: One of the more trendy costumes out there would probably be a Spiderman costume. With three movies already underway there’s a good chance that if you purchase a Spiderman costume now it won’t be outdated since the last Spiderman movie...More

Teen Costumes: Teenagers are very much particular in choosing their costumes, be it for the ordinary events like the regular shopping or for the most exciting events like that of the Halloween teen costumes. This is one of the prestige issues and in no way the teen agers...More

Toga Costume: Halloween parties are becoming increasing popular for grown-up members of the family and a great way to make your party interesting is to go with a theme. Perhaps you could make it all Disney costumes, or perhaps inviting your guests to come in their creepiest scary costume...More

Witch Costume: Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble……Even back in Shakespearean times, witches were a source of mystery and fear. Throw in their association with the scariest night of the year and you have a Halloween costume..More
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