By Melissa Rollit/Special to The News
With Halloween just around the corner, one might be wondering what costume they will wear this year.
The custom of dressing up for Halloween, or ‘guising’ as it was called back in the day, is a long-held tradition.
Guising has been dated back to the Iron Age and the Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would dress in scary costumes to honour the last day before winter, and to scare off spirits, fairies, and the souls of the dead.
So if you are running low on costume ideas, why not be inspired by costumes from the past?
Through the years, Halloween costumes have evolved to reflect the values and culture of the time.
In the early days, mainly children participated in guising, but soon it became a Halloween tradition for all ages.
Costumes at this time would have been inspired by folklore and the supernatural. They were almost always homemade and were made with the intent of disguising the wearer rather than scaring passers-by.
Some of these costumes, such as cats, witches, and goblins, are still tried and true standbys to this day.
Another popular costume idea was to dress up as a different gender.
These costumes often resulted in men wearing their relatives’ dresses from the Victorian and Edwardian era. Similarly, women would dress up as English ‘dudes’, a term used in the 1900s to describe a man of leisure who places a great deal of importance on physical appearances.
The Haney Gazette reported throughout the 1920s and 1930s that these costumes often won best costume at the local masquerades.
By the 1930s, with the advent of popular culture, costumes began to also include characters from books, radio shows, and film. For example, at the height of the Second World War , The Gazette reported that a popular costume for girls in Maple Ridge was to be a “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” which was based on a song of the same name. The song, created by Al Dexter and his Troopers, and covered by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters, topped the charts from 1943 and well into 1944. The costume had a classic western look with cowboy hat and boots, lots of denim, and a toy pistol.
Whatever you decide to wear this Halloween, we hope you’ll stop by the museum to show off your costumes – historically inspired or not.
In the spirit of the spooky season and thanks to the generous support of local company, Haunted History BC, we will be giving away free pumpkins with every visit to the museum during the last two weekends of October (while quantities last).
– Melissa Rollit is curator for the Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archive
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Caption: Four men in various joke costumes including sailor, Mountie, cowboy and fool. (P09012).