Many people believe that Halloween was created in the United States but are surprised to learn that Halloween has strong links to Scotland and the rest of the UK! Halloween can originally be traced all the way back to the Celtic festival of "Samhain" (summers end). Samhain was used as a representation for the end of the year for crops and also the beginning of winter. The Celts were highly spiritual during this period of time, believing that ghosts and the dead walked among the living! During Samhain many druids built and lit large bonfires and burned crops and animals as a sacrifice to Celtic gods in the hope that they would scare away evil spirits from their towns. The Celts also wore animal heads and skins and tried to predict each others futures.
We Scots have always been known as a superstitious group of people and are renowned for creating many of the superstitions that are common in society today. A great example of this is the phrase ‘black sheep of the family’ which comes from Scottish farmers fearing the birth of a black faced lamb would cause the rest of the flock bad luck! We also believed that placing silver in a newborns hand would mean a large wealth later on in life. With all these superstitions it is certainly not surprising that Scotland is thought of as the birth place of Halloween with all of it's atmospheric landscapes and haunted castles with so many morbid histories!
One of Scotland's most famous poets "Robert Burns" even wrote a poem titled "Halloween" in 1985 which would detail the most common customs and legends of Halloween. One of the most common of these included "guising", where kids would dress up with the belief that they would be able to pass through crowds of spirits without being noticed! This is now commonly know as "Trick or Treating", however in Scotland the child must preform a trick for a treat – for example reading a poem, singing a song or even telling a joke. Other popular customs include "dooking" for apples, where a basin of water is filled with delicious apples and each person must take turns to try and pick up an apple with their mouths. A similar messy game played at many Halloween parties is the treacle scones game where treats are placed on a line and participants try and retrieve the treat with their mouth and hands tied behind their backs. Pumpkin carving has also always been incredibly popular in Scotland, however before using pumpkins ‘neeps’ or turnips were used to carve a monstrous face before placing a light inside the vegetable that would stop evil spirits from entering the family's residence! When Halloween became popular in the United States pumpkins were most commonly used as lanterns. Halloween came to America through many UK colonists, who still celebrated the Celtic event. This led to America creating their own traditions and customs for Halloween with aspects from many different cultures, leading to the extravagant decorations and costumes we see today!