Why Do We Dress Up at Halloween?

From children dressing up to go trick-or-treating to grown-ups going to costume parties, everyone can have a bit of fun dressing up at Halloween. But why do we dress up at this time of year?

Wearing costumes at festival times or "mumming" goes back before recorded history in cultures around the world. In the past, this costuming ritual was taken very seriously as a way to appease angry spirits but even though the practice of dressing up has persisted, nowadays it's really just for fun.

Irish mummers
Irish mummers

In Ireland, the festival of Samhain was celebrated at this time of year to commemorate the start of winter and it was traditional to dress up in costumes and masks and dance through the village. Eventually this also included children dressing up and going from door to door reciting verses or singing in exchange for food, similar to the practice of Christmas caroling.

When Irish and Scottish immigrants to the United States brought their Halloween customs, over time dressing up and trick-or-treating merged with pop culture, and by the 1930s costumes were commercially produced, originally exclusively skeletons, ghosts, witches and monsters, but by the 1950s children were dressing up as cartoon characters, movie stars and other famous people as well.

Dressing Up Can be an Important Part of Development

Studies have linked role-play games to experiencing empathy for other children. By pretending to be someone else, children can get practice thinking about what it might feel like to be someone else and what other people might be going through.

Dressing up can also give kids practice for the roles they might take as adults. Obviously this is less of a feature when it comes to dressing up as a witch or SpongeBob Squarepants! But taking on other roles always gives children a "safe space" to experiment with different types of behaviour and ways of interacting with others.

The Early Years Shop Halloween Costume Contest

We are also very excited about the 2016 Early Years Shop Halloween Costume Contest (we hope to make this an annual Halloween tradition)!

We are offering two prizes:

  • individual costume (children only please!)
  • group costumes (submit photo of children and/or staff in costume in a group)

In each category we are awarding a prize of a €75 gift voucher for the Early Years Shop. Send entries to info@earlyyearsshop.ie on or before Friday 8 November. We will announce a winner on 11 November.

We would love to share photos of costumes, but for any photo we need your verification that you have permission from any adult in the photo to have their image shared, and especially for children that you have permission from parents/guardians of every child in the photo to have their image shared on the web.

Good Luck!

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