PICKENS COUNTY — This weekend as you see all the ghosts, ghouls, and princesses capering all over Pickens County for Halloween, keep in mind that when it comes to the holiday it was adults who led the charge in the United States where costumes are concerned.
Dating back to the original Samhain Celtic tradition, celebrating the transition from All Hallows Eve to All Saints Day, costumes were important. To understand the original use of costumes you must understand Samhain, or Halloween as we know it now.
It was during the transition from All Hallows Eve to All Saints Day that made the barrier between the living and dead a thin veil and spirits free to walk the Earth. Costumes were used to deceive the spirits, who had one more opportunity to settle scores before being relegated to the world of mists and the hereafter, and provided protection from their evil ways.
As concerns the European tradition, the first recorded use of costumes occurred in Scotland in the year 1885, though there is a belief by those well-heeled on the subject that the practice predates this earliest account. The 16th century is full of tales of children “mumming” and “guising” as they traveled from house to house to beg for food while reciting verses or songs under threat of mischief.
Although the mythical need for costumes did not become part and parcel of the American tradition, instead replaced with frolicking and parties, the use of costumes continued in the New World. Adults originally were the wearers of costumes, wearing them to masquerade balls on Halloween beginning in the 19th century.
The first recorded date of children participating in the practice came in 1911 in a written account from Kingston, Ontario, as the writer described “children guising around the neighborhood.”
Although it appears the children of the Western hemisphere began using costumes as early as 1911, it would be another two decades before business and industry got involved and turned it into the moneymaking industry of today.
Although the exact year is difficult to pinpoint, it was during the 1930’s in the United States that manufacturers began mass producing costumes for retail sales.
A. S. Fischbaum and Ben Cooper Inc. were among the first to get in on the act, producing costumes based on early movie characters, comic strip characters, and radio characters as well. The retail products soon caught on and the costume industry was born with staggering numbers in sales in the 21st century.
In 2013 retail figures for costumes in the United States reached a staggering $2.6 billion, with the majority of the money spent on adult costumes, not those for children, hearkening back to the days of old when it was adults who enjoyed Halloween the most. It was also cited during 2013 that some $330 million was spent on costumes for pets.
Although the costumes have changed, going from black face and any type of home-made disguise to dissuade evil spirits from your identity, the fun associated with dressing up for the holiday has apparently only grown.
And surprisingly enough, it isn’t our children creating an economic boom every year, but the kid in all of us as we step out of our own lives and become someone else for awhile, even when we are not worried about the vindictiveness of the spirits around us.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.