Halloween in Scotland has ancient roots, dating 2,000 years ago, and is connected to the Samhain festival. Samhain was seen as the dividing point in the year between the lighter and darker half. It was believed by the Celts that the division between our world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, meaning spirits could pass through.
Families would honour their ancestors and ward off harmful spirits in various ways, some of which can still be seen in our modern Halloween celebrations. Fire, food, and costumes played a significant part in the festival, as they do now.
Here are six Scottish Halloween traditions, some you will be familiar with, some less so:
Dating right back to the beginning of the tradition, people would wear costumes and masks to disguise themselves and ward off evil spirits. Over the years, children would perform tricks or songs and be given gifts to keep evil spirits at bay.
This one is less well-known, but we think it’s pretty sweet! A newly engaged couple would each take a nut and put it into the bonfire. If the nuts burned quietly, their union would be happy and peaceful. If, however, the nuts crackled and hissed, then the poor couple were said to be in for a bumpy ride.
Pumpkins are used more often, thanks to America’s influence. But traditionally, neeps would have scary faces cut into them, and they would be carved out to make lanterns to scare away wandering spirits. Of course, pumpkins are far easier to carve, but nothing beats a neep.
This is an ancient tradition from the Celtic belief that Heaven would be full of apple trees! Apple dookin’ was part of their celebration of the beginning of harvest. Apples are allowed to float in a bucket of water, and players will try to grab an apple with either their teeth or a fork.
Looking for a foolproof method to predict your future love’s height and weight and how wealthy you will be. According to Robert Burn’s poem ‘Halloween’, you could do just that by pulling kale from the ground after dark with your eyes tightly shut. The length and shape of the stalk would represent their height and weight, while a healthy coating of soil meant you would be in the money.
Last but not least, this tasty tradition is lots of fun! Scones are covered in treacle and hung from a string. Players then take turns to take a bite from the scones. No hands allowed!
It’s fair to say there are some lovely, fun traditions on the list, along with a few strange ones. We hope they continue for many years to come and we don't lose them.