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What Your Halloween Costume Says About You

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What Your Halloween Costume Says About You

Lady Gaga, Disney princess, Spiderman, Snooki? We’ve come a long way from the original notion of Halloween costumes. In ancient Celtic tradition, the end of October marked the end of harvest season and the beginning of winter, a time of paucity and death–and the one day of the year when it was believed that spirits could return to the physical world. To avoid being recognized by roaming ghosts, people donned masks upon leaving their homes after dark in the hope that the specters would mistake them for fellow spirits. Just imagine, no indoor plumbing, no Internet, and the real live fear of rambling phantoms…

Nowadays, people are clearly not dressing up like Michael Jackson to fool the ghost of said pop star on October 31st, so why do people choose the costumes they do? In many old European celebrations serfs dressed up as kings, queens, gods and monsters–an inverted power structure of sorts. Some selections may still be about power, or superpowers as the case may be, but our costume choices say a number of other things about us as well.

Laura Lica at the Seattle Post Intelligence Reporter writes that, “our costume choices are not random, even if we think so. And although you might think your mask hides you, it’s not entirely true. Although price, comfort and convenience can factor in, when you choose a costume, you live a fantasy and you show the others a part of your inner self.”

Sally Foster, a psychology professor with the University of Miracosta, Calif., notes that Halloween is an occasion for people to either dress up as someone they love or would emulate or someone they disdain and therefore want to mock. John Suler, a psychology professor at Rider University has looked at similar themes. From the article by Lica, here is a summary of what the two experts think your Halloween costume might be saying about you.

Celebrities
Costume choices rooted in fame and popular culture tend to follow trends, and like trends, they may spread quickly then disappear, Suler said. People may simply wish to display a knowledge of current events or share their interests. Or they may use them to express personality traits or social issues that are associated with the celebrity’s image (sensuality, intelligence, power, corruption, rebellion, etc.).

“I think this is a likely choice for the Walter Mittys of the world to be someone more dashing and daring, someone with real power,” Foster said.

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Read more: Body Image, Children, Halloween, Holidays, Life, News & Issues, Spirit,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

138 comments

+ add your own
10:11PM PDT on Aug 18, 2013

Thank you.

10:09PM PDT on Aug 18, 2013

Thank you.

10:07PM PDT on Aug 18, 2013

Thank you.

10:04PM PDT on Aug 18, 2013

Thank you.

12:05PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

I reused a homemeade Daphne from Scooby Doo costume this year.

10:18AM PST on Mar 9, 2011

yet more points for the animals, tra-la-la-la-falala ...

10:18AM PST on Mar 9, 2011

more points for the animals, tra-la-la-la-la ...

10:17AM PST on Mar 9, 2011

points for the animals, tra-la-la ...

3:50PM PST on Jan 16, 2011

I love halloween, but I hate the celebrity worship it has become. Me and my friends use it as a day to express our true creativity, not to show of our bodies.

11:35AM PST on Jan 9, 2011

funny facts

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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