Hallowe'en - what a wonderful night it was for the spookiest of the year! A full moon shrouded in mist, no rain and no wind. Perfect for 'guising'! Spotted loads of youngsters out 'guising' last night, all dressed up as wizards, witches, mummies, devils and so on. All ready to perform a song, or tell jokes in return for apples, toffee apples, nuts, sweets or some coins! Childhood memories of Hallowe'en parties come flooding back - ducking for apples, eating treacly girdle scones suspended on string (no hands allowed) and the telling of spooky tales by the light (and reek) of turnip lanterns with black paper silhouettes of witches and their cats, and bats flying across the face of the moon decorating the walls. And sausages, mashed tatties and neeps to eat.
Hallowe'en has been a favourite time of year for Scots (and others in the Celtic fringes of Britain and France) over the centuries. Celebrations took place to mark the Celtic festival of Samhain, or 'summer's end', which followed harvest. In ancient times, fires were lit, feasts prepared and turnips carved into lanterns to provide light. The smell of these is quite disgusting so a welcome import from North America is the use of pumpkins. Less smelly, easier to carve and little risk of losing a finger in the creation!
No 'trick or treating' here in Scotland. Scots and Irish took the festival of Hallowe'en (and 'guising') with them when they emigrated to North America. There it evolved to use of pumpkins and 'guising' - short for 'disguising' - became 'trick or treating'. This custom was in turn brought to England where Hallowe'en has been celebrated in relatively recent times, Guy Fawkes being a more popular celebration there, although we are always up for a good bonfire in November 5th here in Scotland too.
Burns, who was keenly interested in spirits and ghosts wrote a very long poem about Hallowe'en, too long to post here but if you are interested, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/works/halloween/