Happy Halloween, everyone!
I hope that you all survived last night – whether you were hiding out from vandals in Ontario or Michigan (i.e. Devil’s Night), or fearing a rather serious prank from a neighbor in the United Kingdom (i.e. Mischief Night). Although October 30th does go by many names depending on where you live, it is undoubtedly an evening for wickedness and the release of your inner devil.
Today, however, most people dress up in their favorite costume and have fun by attending parties, eating candy, or participating in other festivities. Halloween has a very rich and fascinating history, comprised of a hodgepodge of Gaelic, Welsh, and Christian influences (Wikipedia article). As a cultural phenomenon, it has evolved to include a diversity of symbols, rituals, foods, and activities, many of them drawn from a North American context (Wikipedia article). The North American context, in turn, was developed through the in-migration of people from European background:
“North American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th century give no indication that Halloween was celebrated there. The Puritans of New England, for example, maintained strong opposition to Halloween, and it was not until the mass Irish and Scottish immigration during the 19th century that it was brought to North America in earnest. Confined to the immigrant communities during the mid-19th century, it was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the 20th century it was being celebrated coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds” (Wikipedia article).
In the past, Halloween costumes were meant to be genuinely scary; these days they are much more likely to take after characters in movies, television shows, or other sources of popular culture (Wikipedia article). Vintage costumes – such as the image on the right – took after “supernatural figures such as vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils” (Wikipedia article).
Games also take place on Halloween night. These days, people are more likely to watch scary movies or attend a ‘haunted’ attraction than partake in a particular game or superstition (Wikipedia article). In the past, games on Halloween could take the form of divination:
“A traditional Scottish form of divining one’s future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one’s shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse’s name. Unmarried women were told that if they sat in a darkened room and gazed into a mirror on Halloween night, the face of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined to die before marriage, a skull would appear. The custom was widespread enough to be commemorated on greeting cards from the late 19th century and early 20th century” (Wikipedia article).
I have found that among my peers, I can’t compete against their (almost cosplay-like) ability to magically turn into a particular character. Watching Reddit’s stream of costumes for the past several days, I am astounded at how much money, time, and effort is invested into a flawless alter-ego image. I understand that it’s a wonderful and rewarding endeavour; I just can’t, myself, get that excited about it. What follows is a series of images from Reddit honouring the incredible talent and perseverance that people have put into their costumes (for the sake of time, I do not include any examples of the countless baby-, child-, or pet-related costumes here).