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The History & Origin of Halloween in Scotland


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.

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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

Kim Milai on October 22, 2013:

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

GrammieOlivia on October 20, 2013:

Nice lens!

Lisa Auch (author) from Scotland on July 31, 2013:

@patinkc: thanks Pat :)

patinkc from Midwest on July 30, 2013:

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

MarcellaCarlton on October 28, 2012:

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

katiecolette on October 31, 2011:

Love the idea of making necklaces out of pumpkin seeds! Another great lens, Lisa :)

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 27, 2011:

One Halloween lens I really enjoyed. Blessed!

Debbie from England on October 17, 2011:

Featured at Halloween Forgotten and blessed by a Squid Angel ;)

Nan from London, UK on October 04, 2011:

An excellent presentation of the history of Samhain. And delicious recipes and celebration ideas. Blessed by an angel

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on October 01, 2011:

Creepy Halloween blessing for your interesting page on Halloween in Scotland!

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on October 01, 2011:

I think the use of pumpkins is American, not sure, but they seem to have a lot more pumpkins than the rest of the world put together :) Excellent lens, I just learned a few things, blessed.

gregoryolney lm on September 03, 2011:

I was born and live in England, but spent about 7 years in the USA in my twenties in the 1960s. I had never heard of Halloween until I arrived the the USA and was somewhat taken aback by all the fuss. Since my return to the UK, the children now celebrate it a little, although not to the extent they do in the US. I'm quite sure the spread of Halloween has been entirely due to commercial enterprises.

anonymous on August 07, 2011:

Halloween is just around the corner again. Halloween seem to be a pretty big traditional holiday all over the world, but not everywhere. I remember when some neighbors move next door from Vietnam, they didn't celebrate much...not Christmas or birthdays even. The kids taught the parents how to become more American with gift giving, and Halloween.

kimbesa from USA on July 07, 2011:

It depends on how it's handled, but I love preserving the traditions, even if some commercial products are used. Thanks!

ZazzleEnchante on November 30, 2010:

Very interesting lens, and an enjoyable read. Great pics too. Blessed by a SquidAngel.

anonymous on November 10, 2010:

When I was a kid we used turnips not pumpkins. Also we used a fork to pierce apples. We hung over the back of a chair and dropped the fork hoping my mother, who spun the apples, got her hand out of the way before we dropped the fork. All so I much liked the name false-faces over masks. Thanks for the lens.

anonymous on November 09, 2010:

Scotland looks beautiful and I learned a lot about Halloween, very informative and educational.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on November 09, 2010:

Oh Me! This was so interesting. I sure learned a lot about Halloween in Scotland and enjoyed my visit here. Lensrolled to my Stornoway Scotland lens.

anonymous on November 08, 2010:

Good lens again.

Eklectik1 on November 05, 2010:

Great info, I did not know most of the things you have here. We love halloween and enjoy it every year. i think it is fine as it is.

kimmie1967 on November 04, 2010:

Great Lens about the origins of Halloween. You are much better at arts and crafts than I am. I would never attempt making a handmade costume, I can not sew at all.

Marijoyce on November 04, 2010:

This was really interesting. Learned a lot of new information here and enjoyed reading this.

BelindaBlevins on November 01, 2010:

I like reading about where Halloween came from. Thanks

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on October 30, 2010:

Enjoyed reading about the Halloween traditions in Scotland. I'm lensrolling this to my Old Fashioned Halloween about the way my mom celebrated it back in the 1930s.

RebeccaE on October 30, 2010:

wow what a great lens learned a lot, Scotland rocks and so soes Ireland i must say!

eccles1 on October 25, 2010:

I didn't know all that !

Elizabeth Sheppard from Bowling Green, Kentucky on October 21, 2010:

It has not changed a lot since I was a child. But where I live there aren't too many trick or treaters. I think more and more people are celebrating the older holiday, and I think that is good. It makes the celebration even more fun.

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on October 19, 2010:

I had no idea Halloween originated in Scotland and Ireland. An interesting and fun lens! Love the "Dookin fir Aiples."

Ann from Yorkshire, England on October 18, 2010:

@LynnScotland: treacle scones - now that DOES take me back :0)

Ann from Yorkshire, England on October 18, 2010:

what a wonderful lens Lisa, brought back memories of my childhood dunking for apples - don't they do that in the US? 5*

julieannbrady on October 06, 2010:

No, I don't think Halloween has become too commercialized -- I personally enjoy this holiday -- I get to let my hair hang down, et. al. BOO!

LynnScotland on October 04, 2010:

I remember dooking for apples and treacle scones, great fun! In those days though, there was no such thing as trick or treat - you were expected to do your party piece, such as singing or reciting a poem, before getting your reward.

MagpieNest on October 03, 2010:

I did know most of the history of Halloween. But I didn't know why we played bobbing for apples (as we called it) at Halloween. Now I do, thanks Lisa. And I think we'll have a go at making toffee apples this year too.

dc64 lm on October 01, 2010:

With Halloween just around the corner, it's good to have some of the background info on the holiday. I knew less than I thought I did, and now I know more.

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on September 26, 2010:

Great information here. I didn't know the history of Halloween. Also, cool suggestion for the pumpkin seed necklace. We always cook and eat them, but that necklace looked really great.

hlkljgk from Western Mass on September 26, 2010:

it probably has, but not to the extent of christmas. i love this time of year. thanks for the historical info.

Mary from Chicago area on September 24, 2010:

lol, I never liked bobbing for apples (as it's called in the usa), but otherwise I think Halloween is still fun despite the commercialism. I think of it as a kids' holiday, but I do have one SIL who absolutely loves Halloween and goes nuts decorating her house with fun vintage and homemade items as well as new stuff "off the rack." nice work here.

caketech on September 21, 2010:

Congrats on your purple star! The toffee apples look soooo yummy! I think I will make these with my kids, and also the pumpkin seed necklaces when we carve our pumpkin! Thanks for the ideas!

KimGiancaterino on September 20, 2010:

What a beautiful lens ... I enjoyed learning more about the history of Halloween. Congratulations on your purple star!

LotusMalas on September 20, 2010:

I'd LOVE to visit Scotland during Halloween!

GrowWear on September 17, 2010:

Congratulations for your Purple Star for Halloween In Scotland!

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on September 17, 2010:

I think this lens looks lovely with its purple star! Such a great job on Halloween in Scotland.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 16, 2010:

Congratulations on the purple star!!

PiccadillyPunkin on September 16, 2010:

Great job on this lens! I love that you have some really helpful and fun ideas. Also, thanks for putting the warning on there to be safe with kids around water. Very thorough lens!

anonymous on September 16, 2010:

I love learning about the origin of traditions. Very informative AND entertaining lens. Congratulations on that shiny purple star!

Bradshaw LM on September 16, 2010:

Excellent lens! Glad to see the purple star added as well - congrats.

Lisa Auch (author) from Scotland on September 16, 2010:

@nebby: thankyou to you all for your kind comments and wishes

nebby from USA on September 16, 2010:

I didn't realize that Scotland celebrated Halloween similar to the US. Congratulations on your purple star and teaching us about Halloween in Scotland

Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on September 15, 2010:

It's always interesting to hear how other countries celebrate the same holidays. No two countries really do it the same. Halloween is definitely becoming more commercialized, but I can't complain being an online publisher I reap the benefits. :)

Indigo Janson from UK on September 12, 2010:

Excellent Scottish lens, and one I would love to add to my 'All About Scotland' lensography (which features lenses by others on Scotland as well as my own).

Samantha Lynn from Missouri on September 10, 2010:

Fantastic Info...I sometimes forget there are tons of other things to do, other than beg for candy, on Halloween!

Tonie Cook from USA on September 09, 2010:

Blessed! for Halloween 2010 - This is a wonderful informative source of information about the origins of Halloween.

Christmastoyshop on September 07, 2010:

Great lens here! I had no idea of all the history behind Halloween! Thanks for the lesson! I do think the Halloween is very commercialized, but it's all in good fun. :)

Spook LM on September 07, 2010:

Ooch aye, hoots mon, it's a nae brae moonlight night. Blessed by an Angel.

Paul from Montreal on September 06, 2010:

Nice lens, I spent Halloween in Edinburgh once and there was a big parade of people in costumes and a party in an old church.

capriliz lm on September 05, 2010:

I live in a small rural PA town, and the kids can still go trick-or-treating here. It is a lot of fun seeing how happy and excited the little ones get.

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on September 03, 2010:

Very interesting Halloween lens! Those toffee apples sure look good!

Lee Hansen from Vermont on September 02, 2010:

A fun lens that gives us in the USA a different viewpoint on Halloween - one of the most popular holidays here. Trick-or-Treat has been what children shout at doorways for at least 50 years; it didn't originate with the ET film ... I was shouting it in Boston in 1954, dressed as a little red devil. Nice to meet you ... lensrolled and thumbed up.

LouiseKirkpatrick from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on September 02, 2010:

Brilliant lens - my OH is Scottish, I'll show him this! I'm from the south of England and all we seem get round here in the past few years is cheeky kids wearing their ordinary clothes and a pathetic plastic mask demanding money (which I don't give them!). I do love the traditional aspect of Halloween and am quite sad that the meaning behind it gets missed in favour of commercial exploitation. Let's hope people read this lens and enjoy Halloween in the way it was intended - blessed by a Squid Angel :)

Lisa Auch (author) from Scotland on September 01, 2010:

@mythphile: Yeah you are right the pumkins are a commercial aspect, and it was origionally turnips! Thanx geek greek for the lovely comment.

Ellen Brundige from California on September 01, 2010:

Excellent lens! I follow Celtic holidays -- my cat is named Samhain, and my best friend's is Beltane -- yet I still learned a few things here!

In America, "Trick or Treat" was common before E.T. When I was a kid,the thing to do on Hallowe'en was to go "trick or treating", and as far as I know it still is, though the times have changed and -- sadly -- kids are now taken to public places like malls, rather than visiting neighbors' houses. I remember the excitement of walking down a long dirt road to a farmhouse in rural PA, anticipating the goodies (usually homemade) and the expressions on their faces when the door opened. Out in the country, it was often the one time each year we'd see all our "neighbors". Nowadays the fear is some idiot will answer the door with a gun, so I think that custom's all but stopped, though I still get a few trick or treaters on my doorstep.

And now I've got "A soul, a soul, a soulcake, please good missus a soulcake" stuck in my head, which isn't a bad thing!

Rumor has it that pumpkin carving across the pond was originally done with turnips, not pumpkins...yes?

WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on August 28, 2010:

Enjoyed your history on Halloween. I think Halloween has become too commercialized but it's still FUN for children. Our neighbors with children sure decorate up their yards...weeks before Halloween. I've made a few costumes and I've also put together odds and ends costumes. Oops, a few bought ones, too! Nice work on your daughter's devil costume. Thanks for sharing your Halloween traditions and tasty recipes. :)

justholidays on August 28, 2010:

Mmmmmm! Those delicious toffee appels! Oh and that bubbling apple game! What a delightful lens!

Lisa from Rhode Island on August 26, 2010:

wonderfully written lens I really enjoyed it Halloween is so much fun and I enjoy all the traditions. lens rolled and featured great lens!!

BuckHawkcenter on August 26, 2010:

Nicely done! I love the history of all the traditions.

SacredCynWear on August 26, 2010:

I think that Halloween indeed is commercial, but in a strange way, it makes it more fun, because more people are inclined to celebrate it. Even the media partakes in the festivities by showing movies and awesome shows on the History and Discovery channel. The wonderful thing is all the old Halloween traditions can be kept while adapting the modernization of it. This lens is great and very informative!

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on August 26, 2010:

Yes I remember guisers at Halloween, toffee apples, and treacle scones - so messy! Great job, made me feel like I was back in Scotland for Halloween.

WhiteOak50 on August 26, 2010:

Fantastic Lens! You did a good job putting it together!

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on August 26, 2010:

I'm Scottish, yet never knew that Halloween originated in Scotland. What a fun way to learn something new! Happy Halloween!

Sandy Mertens from Frozen Tundra on August 26, 2010:

Wonderful lens. Learned a lot about Halloween in Scotland.

Treasures By Brenda from Canada on August 26, 2010:

You've picked out lots of great Halloween activites. Kind of makes me want to have a Halloween party!

bdkz on August 26, 2010:

Congratulations! You've been SquidBoo Blasted. Happy Halloween!

anonymous on August 26, 2010:

Super Halloween lens. I learned a lot. Thanks for sharing. Hope you add a picture of your daughter's Halloween costume!

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on August 25, 2010:

Hi Lisa,

Halloween is my favorite Holiday. This is a fun lens and you have some info that is new to me. "Gizers" is good. I do appreciate your congratulations on my milestone of number one for tea bag folding the other day.

Robin S from USA on August 25, 2010:

Thanks for sharing! Fun read!

Yume Tenshi on August 25, 2010:

Hello Lisa! :)

Once again a wonderful lens from a well established member. :)

In my opinion the "magic" of Halloween has long been forgotten. What was once a time for families to be creative, together- has now turned into a commercialized event. Almost like Christmas. >.< Which is a little annoying, isn't it. I am sure however that even with its commercialized feeling about it- Halloween still manages to inspire kids and certain "young at heart" adults too. :D I can't wait for Halloween! Though I am sure I'll drown in the process of "Dookin fir Aiples";) Have fun!

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