Hallowe’en tradition

Hallowe’en will be a bit different this year without door-to-door guising (if you live in Scotland) or trick-or-treating but will still be an excuse for dressing up and playing games, even if it’s only with your own family.

Hallowe’en was a big thing in Scotland when I was growing up. (Even the word Hallowe’en comes from the Scots term for All Hallows Eve or evening.) We dressed up, sometimes as witches, devils, fairies or other spirits but not always, and we went guising. This involved calling at the houses of friends and neighbours in our costumes (disguises) and in return for singing a song, telling a joke or a story, reciting a poem or giving some other small performance of a ‘party-piece’, guisers were rewarded with fruit, nuts, sweets and perhaps even a few coins. We took with us a Hallowe’en lantern but made them from turnips rather than pumpkins. (Turnips are much harder to hollow out.)  At home or at Hallowe’en parties we also dooked for apples. For the traditionalists, dooking for apples involves floating several in a basin of water, then trying to catch one and lift it out of the basin using only your teeth. An alternative approach is to kneel on a chair with a fork between your teeth, lean over the basin of floating apples and try to spear a fruit by dropping the fork. Another favourite Hallowe’en game was trying to eat treacle-coated scones hanging from strings with our hands tied behind our backs.All very messy, but lots of fun!

The traditional Hallowe’en festivities have their origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain which marked the end of summer and the start of winter. Samhain was part harvest festival and part commemoration of the dead and was thought to be a time when the barrier between our world and ‘the other world’ was at its most permeable. The tradition of guising at Hallowe’en comes from the idea that disguising yourself as the kind of spirit which might be abroad at Hallowe’en was a way of going unnoticed among them and so offered some protection from their mischief making.

However you mark Hallowe’en this year, I hope you enjoy it and your disguises are successful!

Image credits:

PumpkinsThad Zajdowicz on VisualHunt / CC BY

Broomstick:www.chrisbirds.com on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Lantern:houghtonbirds on Visual hunt / CC BY