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Why do People Dress Up on Halloween?

Dressing up on Halloween is probably why it’s considered the most fun holiday. All year people contemplate a costume that will be the envy of all the trick-or-treaters or win the costume contest at the Halloween party. Either way, the practice of dressing up in costume on Halloween is hundreds of years old and still performed today.

Halloween essentially means, “All Hallows Eve,” which occurred the night before “All Hallows Day,” a Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the saints. Years before “All Hallows Day,” was celebrated, the Celtic Irish celebrated October 31st as the “new year.”

On the eve of the “new year,” or “Samhain,” (rhyming with cow-en) as they called it, the spirits of the recently deceased could re-enter the bodies of the living for a chance at an afterlife. During this night, all barriers between the living and the dead were broken.

Fearing for their souls, the Celts would extinguish all the lights in their houses, dress up in ghoulish costumes, and reek havoc on the town to scare the spirits away. The Roman Catholic’s later adopted these practices as their own. As spirit possession became less popular, people began dressing up as witches, goblins, and demons in a more ceremonial manner.

In the 1840’s the famous ‘potato famine’ struck Ireland. Many Irish fled Ireland in search of refuge and ended up in America as immigrants. Although the practice of “dressing up” on Halloween was already a practice in Europe, this is when the ceremony was brought to America.

Today, people all over the world still dress up in costume on Halloween, or “All Hallows Eve,” as it was once called. Many believe that dressing up is a tribute to the ‘devil,’ or some kind of ‘demonic’ ceremony. Quite the contrary, dressing up actually started as means to save souls from demons and later on to celebrate the saints!

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