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A Traditional Halloween Jack-o-Lantern
A Traditional Halloween Jack-o-Lantern

allowe'en (Halloween ), celebrated on October 31 derives from the Celtic festival Samhuinn. Children go around peoples' houses (traditionally in costumes or fancy dress), asking for sweets or money although some still (voluntarily or otherwise) perform a song, dance or tell a joke in order to deserve the householder's contribution. Money used to be saved towards buying fireworks for another celebration on 5th November, Guy Fawkes Night.

American influence and marketing in recent years has seen this increasingly referred to as trick-or-treating, but the Scottish term is Guising. Part of Hallow'een is the carving out of a turnip with holes cut in to form a scary face into which a candle is placed. This is called a Neep or neepie lantern - see also Pop Day. Other activities include Dookin' for apples (ducking) and monkey nuts in a bath of water and attempting to eat sticky scones covered in treacle or syrup which dangle from a rope across the room with your hands tied behind your back. Very messy!

When I was a child in the 1950's, living in a small country village in Fife, the ladies of the local Women's Rural Institute used to throw a Halloween Party for all the school children every year with games and prizes for the best fancy dress (usually ghosts and witches) and best turnip lantern. They had the usual dookin for apples plus a variation where you stood on a chair and leant over the tub with the apples bobbing about in water and dropped a fork out of your mouth to try to stab an apple. Then they would serve up plates of steaming hot mashed neeps and tatties in which silver threepenny bits were hidden! No health and safety in those days but don't remember anyone choking! Great fun going home in the dark with all the turnip lanterns glowing, the smell of singed turnip wafting everywhere!

In Greenock we used to go out in Galoshuns, not guising!

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