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The History & Origin of Halloween in Scotland

Updated on April 2, 2015

The origin of Halloween

A fun and interesting look at the History and origin of Halloween in Scotland. Although now celebrated throughout the world, Halloween originated from Scotland and Ireland, and dates back more than two thousand of years to the Celtic (K-eltic) Samhainn festival.

Although this holiday is not as popular over here in the UK as it is in the States, in more recent years, Halloween and its celebration has almost disappeared in many places, some do still like to celebrate it.

Samhainn Festival which means "the feast of all souls", was actually celebrated on the 1st of November. The Celtics believed in Gods and worshiped them and nature, the sun being their favourite.

The Celts would clebrate, to mark the end of the season of collecting in their harvest, and of the end of the sun and the beginning of the season of darkness and cold.

basket of apples
basket of apples

Origin of Halloween All Hallows Eve

Celts and Roman influence

During Roman invasion they brought many of their customs. One of the festivals was the Pomona Day, named for their goddess of fruit and gardens. And as you may know the French word for Apple is Pomme.

And after many Roman years of ruling, the customs of the Celtic's Samhain festival and the Roman Pomona Day mixed, becoming one major Autumn holiday.

The transition between the old and the new year was, when the Celts(K-elts) believed the souls of the dead and evil spirits could visit the living world and move amongst them. So the day before, the 31st October, became known as All hallows Eve, Halloween, the eve before All Hallows day or All Saints Day ( 1st day in November), and was the day Christians celebrated alI their Saints. The Roman's had their festival Pomona Day.

During this time the Church made the 2nd of November All Souls day. It was a day to honour the dead where people dressed as Ghosts, Angels and Devils, lighting big fires.

Halloween Traditions - Customs and Beliefs

easy make chocolate  covered apples
easy make chocolate covered apples

we love serving Scary food at Halloween, Like our Chocolate covered spook-tacular Apples, but why do we do this at Halloween?

I personally like the story of how all of their dead on the Eve of the Celts new year were called together, the dead taking on different forms, with bad spirits taking the form of animals and the most evil taking the form of Cats (sorry cat lovers).

There is also a Scottish medieval tradition of "souling" where poor people and children would go round the doors singing and saying prayers for the dead in return for cakes or food

Halloween as we know it today is a mix of religion, customs and beliefs, and is where we get Pomona Day's apples, lanterns, nuts and the harvest. The Festival of Sanhain's, black cats, magic, evil spirits and death and all Saints Day (All Souls Day) is where we get the ghosts, skeletons and skulls from.

See how to make our Apples Here and more Halloween Activities

Trick or Treat......The Meaning of....

Guisers (the Scots word for Trick or Treaters)

The children who dress up for Halloween in Scotland are known as "guisers" (guy-z-irs) the term given to children, who go door to door in disguise, The words "Guisers" (performers in disguise) can be traced back at least to the Middle Ages.

This tradition comes from the time when people would wear masks, dress up and put up decorations to scare away evil spirits, carrying out the tradition of giving presents or sacrifices to keep the spirits happy, so they would go away and leave the living alone.

Trick or Treating the Scottish way

In Scotland

"Trick- or- Treat" arrived over here in the 80's and is said to have been picked up by us with the screening of the blockbuster film E.T.

Here is Scotland you will hear children, in the lead up to Halloween asking each other excitedly

"What are you going out" guising" as?" (pronounced guy-zin', in Glasgow anyway)

Meaning what are you going out dressed as, for halloween.

Guisers, will knock at a door, and once opened will shout "trick- or- treat" and will usually preform a trick, such as recite a poem or tell a joke, in order to receive their treat, usually consists of some monkey nuts, sweets, a penny and an apple.

In past days if a treat was not given then guisers would play a trick on the house hold, or a joke.

The most memorable game we used to look forward to was "dooking fir aiples" and originates from when witches were "ducked or flogged in the water." and if they didn't drown they were a witch and were burned at the stake. Other fun games were treacle covered scones hanging from a piece of string.

And as we passed other "guisers" we would tell them what house was letting you "dook" for your apple, and there was always a queue at that house.

home made pumkins And lanterns
home made pumkins And lanterns

Why Pumpkins for Halloween?...

....actually it was turnips!

The use of lanterns and candles, were used to keep the dead away from the living, now we use pumpkins, which is actually the more commercial aspect of Halloween.

This is one of our Favourite parts of Halloween, even involving dad (he likes to buy the pumpkin. And here we thought it just for kids)

Making the Pumpkin. This is a picture of one of last years creations to go outside along our wall in the front garden.

1 large pumpkin required

1 small cutting knife (use carefully near children)

1 marker pen (to draw your desired design onto the pumpkin)

1 large spoon (to scoop out the inside of the pumpkin)

1 small tealight (to put inside to light up your pumpkin)

We put these outside our door to greet our visitors.

Don't throw away your pumpkin seeds, you can dry these out, paint them, and make a necklace by threading the seeds with a needle and thread.

Find more ideas at Activity Village

Ducking for Apples - "Dookin fir Aiples"

Warning - You WILL get wet

Please Remember and be extra vigilant regarding safety with younger children near water.

1 tub 1/2 filled (allow extra room for adding apples, we usually use the washing basin)

8- 10 apples in your tub at one time (all cleaned with their stickers, and stalks removed)

1 water absorbent mat/waterproof mat

For Older Children

The player must sit with hands behind the back and try to catch an apple with their mouths, the one to catch it the quickest is the winner and supposed to be the next to marry?

For younger children

When my daughter was younger, we played a variation of this, and instead of kneeling on the floor, we had them kneel on a chair that was back to front and hold a fork in their mouths dropping it trying to spear an apple.

Toffee Apples

How to make

This is the easiest recipie EVER and so easy to remember

  • 6 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 10 eating apples
  • 10 child friendly lollipop sticks or similar

Wash all your apples and insert a lollipop stick into the core of the apple (so as it is easier to hold when eating)

Dissolve all the ingredients in a suace pan, and boil until it is all dissolved, and when a drop cracks in cold water.

Remove from heat and roll the apples, covering them in the toffee sauce, placing on greasproof paper until set.

you can also add red food colouring, or roll in chocolate, the variations are endless.

Keep dry catching apples
Keep dry catching apples

Treacle Scones

Hangin' from a Polie...

Warning - MESSY but FUN

This is a variation using the apples instead of scones, and best done outside. It can also be a drier version of dooking for apples.

A packet of Scones (or you can make your own)

Length of String

Long pole like a broom handle, branches outside

Tub of treacle

Tie the length of string round the Scone, attach to the pole, and when ready to play dip the scone into the treacle, hold the pole above the childs head so that the scone is just slightly above the childs face, the child holds its hands behind the back and tries to eat the scone.

Tell us what you think

© 2010 Lisa Auch

Did you know much about the History of Halloween - Has halloween become too comercialised

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    • Kim Milai profile image

      Kim Milai 3 years ago

      I was trying to explain to my girls about Halloween in the U.K. This article helped me a lot!

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      Nice lens!

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 3 years ago from Scotland

      @patinkc: thanks Pat :)

    • patinkc profile image

      patinkc 3 years ago from Midwest

      Enjoyed reading your lens! Good info about Halloween and Celtic traditions! I might add a link on my Celtic lenses. Saw your link in the Squidoo Daily

    • profile image

      MarcellaCarlton 4 years ago

      Sure I knew some. We really don't celebrate Halloween, instead we celebrate the harvest.

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