Why Do We Wear Costumes on Halloween? The Haunting History of Halloween


Photo by Angelica Summary

Halloween Decorations

Angelica Summary

Halloween is a time for spooky decorations, scary movies, dressing up in all sorts of costumes, and going trick-or-treating. But why do we do all of these things?

The spooky holiday we have today originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain (pronounced Sau-wen) was originally celebrated on November 1; it was a day that represented the transition of seasons and the time of harvest. But, it was also was a day that Pagans believed the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world broke down. Spirits would then be able to interact with humans. People were terrified of being contacted by spirits, so they devised many ways to protect themselves.

People would give offerings and sacrifice cattle and other animals to the gods and spirits to pay them respect and appease them so they would not harm the people. They would also do rituals around a large sacred bonfire, called Samghnagans, to cast protection on the people who participated and to praise the god. If someone did not participate they were believed to be harmed by the deities, resulting in sickness and even death.

Other than just trying to appease the gods and spirits, some people would try to scare the deities away and even deceive them. Some Celts would disguise themselves in costumes such as animal skins, heads, and monsters so the spirits were not tempted to mess with them. This is where the wearing of costumes on Halloween is believed to have come from.

Decorating for Halloween with tombs and skeletons (Photo by Angelica Summary)

One of the well known symbols of Halloween, the jack-o-lantern, also originated from this time. People would carve scary faces into gourds and turnips and place them in their windows or in front of their houses. This was their attempt at scaring off the spirits. This is also where the origins of people decorating their homes for Halloween came from.


Halloween traditions are all rooted in history and have a reason for why they exist. Halloween is a holiday that many people love to celebrate, either by dressing up in costumes, decorating their homes, or carving a pumpkin. All of these things are fun to do and have brought joy to many, but they have a serious and practical reason for why they were practiced years ago.