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The History of Halloween (and why it is the favourite dress-up excuse)

The History of Halloween

Does Halloween make you think of scary witches and creepy ghosts? We don’t really celebrate traditional Halloween in South Africa, although it has recently become more popular among the trendy families to let their kids go trick or treating. The kids love it as it gives them an opportunity to dress up. (The grown ups too)!

The History of Halloween

Halloween is on the night of 31 October, the eve of All Saints’ Day. It refers to the Celtic festival Samhain. The Celts celebrated this day when those who looked after animals moved them into appropriate shelter to prepare for the long and cold winter ahead. Samhain also means ‘end of summer’ and the harvesting of crops also happened around this time.  As you can imagine, there was much superstition connected with this time of change. This includes the belief in fairies and that the spirits of the dead wandered around looking for bodies to inhabit. The day of Samhain was also regarded as a day for honouring the recently departed.

How it became a day for dressing up

People were terrified by being possessed by spirits, so they dressed up in costumes and paraded around the streets. They would make loud noises and display their costumes in the hope of confusing and frightening the spirits away. It is believed that the first Halloween costumes were worn 1,000 years ago. It seems that costumes haven’t really changed much since.

Halloween and the tradition of dressing up for the holiday became popular during the Victorian era. New discoveries encouraged people to find a connection with the simpler times of ancient folklore and become more connected to nature. This inspired many Halloween costumes at that time. Masquerade parties were very popular in the early 20th century. Many private social clubs held the parties for their members as Halloween was the first holiday after people returned from their summer homes. At this time, Halloween costumes also reflected people’s interest in other cultures and the exotic. This is evident in the ever-popular Egyptian-inspired costumes. Halloween costumes were solely homemade at this point, too.

Now, there doesn’t seem to be a particular theme for dressing up for Halloween – other than witches of course! According to Insider, the top Halloween costume ideas for 2016 were Pokemon characters, Darth Vader and Star Wars characters, Steam Punk and, not to be outdone, Disney princesses. Also popular were the comic heroes, including Batman and Superman. If you are wondering what to masquerade as this year, it appears that living trophies, walking emojis, Minions, Harley Quinn and Joker duos and – yes, Disney again – Belle, are all the rage. It doesn’t really matter what or how you choose to dress up. The main point, I feel, is to wear a costume you wouldn’t ordinarily wear, and have a whole lot of fun!

What to wear for Halloween

Check out our store for ideas for more Halloween costumes in South Africa.

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