Ways to celebrate Hallowe’en in true Scottish style

Hallowe’en becomes more popular each year in the UK but people often don’t realise that the celebration has strong Scottish connections.

Hallowe'en has strong Scottish connections and some bizarre traditions attached to it.
Hallowe'en has strong Scottish connections and some bizarre traditions attached to it.

We already have the spooky, atmospheric landscape, gruesome history and more haunted castles than you can shake a witch’s broom at - not to mention many strange superstitions.

Hallowe’en gets its name from All Hallows Eve, the night before the Christian festival of All Hallows (All Saints Day).

The origins of Hallowe’en can also be traced back to the ancient Scottish festival of Samhain (Samhuinn in Gaelic), which was traditionally held on November 1. This marked the end of summer and harvest time and recognised the start of the winter months.

If you are looking for some traditional Scottish ways to celebrate Hallowe’en here are a few ideas:

Nut burning - this is a game for recently engaged couples. To find out if you and your loved one will live happily ever after you simply toss a nut each into an open fire and if they quietly burn away your union is a good one, but if they crackle and hiss as they burn you may face a rocky relationship!

Sausage rolls - pork pastries were forbidden on Hallowe’en under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 but since this law was repealed in the 1950s sausage rolls have been a popular snack for Hallowe’en parties.

Welcome the ghosts - remember to set out an empty chair and plate of food to welcome any spirits of the dead who may pass through on the night - if you failed to do this people believed there was a risk that the spirit would inhabit your seat instead - spooky!

Treacle scones - this very messy game challenges you to take a bite out of a treacle covered scone which is hanging from ropes, again your hands are tied behind your back.

Fires and ‘neeps lanterns’ - large bonfires were traditionally lit in communities to ward off evil, and this tradition still survives today in the form of carving a face in a turnip, nowadays many people use pumpkins but this is actually the American version, and then placing a candle inside.

Guising or ‘galoshin’ - In Scotland it’s been traditional for children to blacken their faces and dress up in the form of an evil spirit, such as a witch or ghost, and perform a song, poem or joke before they could receive a treat - usually monkey nuts, sweets or coins. The ‘trick or treat’ version is actually American.

Dookin’ for apples - this popular game has been played for centuries and involves trying to grab apples floating a tub of water with your mouth and hands tied behind your back.