Wearing costumes on Halloween

Halloween is a time for watching scary movies, carving pumpkins, trick or treating and of course, dressing up as your favourite scary character.

The spooky event was originally celebrated in the US, with an estimated 65% of Americans marking Halloween each year.

However, there is a dark meaning behind Halloween costumes, which goes beyond the fun activity we take part in each spooky season.

Here's everything you need to know about why we dress up on Halloween and why we celebrate it.

Why do we dress up on Halloween?

Originally, people dressed up on Halloween to scare off the dead, with the tradition stemming from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.

The tradition was adopted by pagans during Samhain to scare off evil spirits and it was hoped that wandering spirits seeing people in their weird disguises would assume they were also spirits – and let them go free.

However, society has now swapped costumes involving animal skins and heads for less gruesome outfits in the modern age.

Costumes then became the norm and eventually aligned with cultural references of the time. Eventually, the event became a secular tradition.

Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Samhain, which is now known as Halloween, originally belonged to those who occupied the region of Ireland and some parts of what is now Great Britain.

Falling around November 1, Samhain marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter.

During the festival, Celts would build bonfires to commemorate the change in season, as well as telling each other stories, wearing costumes with animal parts on and sacrificing animals.

Eventually, the tradition combined itself with that of the invading forces in the form of the Romans.

The Roman festivals of Pomona and Feralia celebrated the dead and the goddess of trees and fruit respectively.

The symbol for Pomona is an apple – and people see this as the reason "bobbing apples" became a tradition associated with Halloween.

Christianity then designated November 1 as All Saints' Day and the following day All Souls’ Day.

Due to this, October 31 became 'All Saints Eve' and then 'All Hallows Eve' before the holiday transformed into Halloween. Eventually, the tradition moved on to the US, when Irish and British migrants moved across the Atlantic.

As traditions developed, people began sharing stories of the dead, which soon turned into ghost stories and misbehaving.

Why do we go trick or treating on Halloween?

The history of trick-or-treating traces back to Scotland and Ireland where the tradition of "guising", going house to house at Halloween and putting on a small performance to be rewarded with food or treats, goes back at least as far as the 16th century.

Rather than pledging to pray for the dead, people would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform another sort of “trick” before collecting their treat.

As a reward, their treat often consisted of fruit, nuts or coins.

It is thought that tradition of "guising" was brought to America when people migrated in large numbers during the 19th century, with the Irish potato famine sending more than one million across the Atlantic.

In the modern day, children in spooky costumes are gifted sweets for trick or treating on the evening of Halloween.

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