Of all the seasonal holidays, Halloween is one of my favourites. It might not have the spiritual significance or inspire the sameÂ giddy expectation as Christmas, but thereâ€™s just something about its macabre theatricality which never fails to bring out the big kid in me.
Massively popular in the United States and celebrated to a lesser extent in the UK and other countries in various â€˜guisesâ€™ –Â excuse the pun – people are often unaware of the celebrationâ€™s strong Scottish connections. With its atmospheric landscape and arrayÂ of haunted castles, peculiar superstitions and occasionally morbid history, itâ€™s not surprising that Halloween first took root here. TakeÂ a look at some of the Vines in our fantastic ‘Spooky Scotland’ series to see just what we mean:
Halloween or Hallowe’en takes its name from All Hallowsâ€™ Eve, the night before the Christian festival of All Hallows or All Saints Day. But itâ€™s possible to trace its beginnings back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (SamhuinnÂ in Gaelic), heldÂ on 1 November, which marked the culmination of summer and the harvest period with the onset of winter. Robert Burnsâ€™ 1785 poem â€˜Halloweenâ€™ details many of the national customs and legends surrounding the festival, many of them pagan in origin, which had persisted even with the advent of Christianity.
Here are some other old fashioned Halloween traditions from Scotland that you might want to incorporate into your own festivities this year:
Fires and ‘neeps lanterns’ –Â To ward off potentially malevolent entities, large bonfires were lit in communities and it is believed that this practice survives today in the tradition of carving pumpkin lanterns with creepy grimaces. While the use of pumpkins is actually an American invention, in Scotland it has been custom to carve lanterns out of â€˜neepsâ€™ or turnips.
Guising or â€˜galoshinâ€™ â€“ Instead of trick-or-treating, children would literally disguise themselves as evil spirits by blackening their faces and dressing in old clothes to go guising. According to folklore, this was so that they could venture out safely without being detected by wicked ghouls. Guisers also couldnâ€™t simply knock on the doors of their neighbours yelling â€˜trick-or-treatâ€™ and expect sweets in return. They had to perform a â€˜trickâ€™ first by reciting a song, poem or joke before being rewarded with goodies.
Dookinâ€™ for apples â€“ A staple of childrenâ€™s Halloween parties across the country, this time-honoured game involves trying to grab apples floating in a tub of water using your mouth, with your hands tied behind your back. If you want to up the stakes have a go at catching them with a fork.
Treacle scones â€“ Once again with your hands tied, this messy game challenges participants to take a bite out of treacle covered scones hanging from ropes.
Nut burningÂ â€“ Recently engaged? Find out if you and your beloved will live happily ever after. Toss a nut each into an open fire. If they quietly smolder amongst the flames your union will be a good one, but if they hiss and crackle you could be in for a bumpy ride!
Sausage rolls â€“ The Witchcraft Act of 1735 forbid the consumption of pork pastries on Halloween. It wasnâ€™t repealed until the 1950s and since then sausage rolls have been a popular treat at Halloween parties and gatherings.
Check out the graphic below for some more unique Halloween traditions to inspire you this year.
Are you all set for Halloween this year or have anything special in store for your little ghosts and monsters? Let us know in the comments below or take a look at our helpful round-up of spooky family-friendly events and activitiesÂ to see if there’s somethingÂ happening near you.