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Page last updated at 08:35 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009
Halloween traditions and events
halloween masks
As part of Samhain, masks were used to scare away evil spirits

Halloween is now celebrated beyond Britain and Ireland but it dates back more than 2000 years to the Celtic Samhain festival.

November 1 was the first day of the Celtic New Year. The transition between the old and new year was when the Celts believed the souls of the dead and evil spirits could visit the living world.

The Catholic church moved All Saints Day from May to November, perhaps in an effort to contain the Pagan festival of Samhain which became known as Halloween.


The Scottish tradition of 'guising' can be traced back to Samhain where people would use masks and decorations to disguise themselves and scare away evil spirits.

Halloween gifts given to guisers also have their origins in Samhain as sacrifices were made in order to placate evil spirits. The tradition also encompasses the tradition of 'Mummers' who would dress up and perform plays in return for food and gifts.

Candles and lanterns were used to keep the dead away from the living at Samhain and this tradition was carried on with the use of turnip lanterns in Scotland for Halloween. Pumpkins are now more commonly used as the commercial aspects of Halloween are imported from the US.

Scottish Halloween

Halloween rituals in Scotland include:

A pumpkin lantern
Pumpkins have now replaced turnips as the lantern of choice in Scotland

'Dooking' for apples. This may have evolved from the Roman celebration of honouring the goddess of fruit 'Pomona' represented by an apple. It may also have its origins in witches being 'ducked'. Eating treacle-covered scones hanging from a string is another part of a traditional Scottish Halloween.

Other traditions involving apples include peeling an apple in a long peel then throwing the peel over your shoulder - the letter the peel forms would be the initial of a future spouse. It was thought that a future spouse may also appear by slicing an apple in half and eating it in front of a mirror by candlelight.

A marriage partner's shape could also be guessed at by going into a field of kail and pulling a stalk of kail from the field. It was thought that the shape of the kail would match the shape of a future spouse.

Halloween events

There are many events taking place in Edinburgh, Fife and East Scotland. Here are a few of the Halloween happenings:

Air and Scare, Museum of Flight, 31 October

Don fancy dress and take part in the museum's spooky workshops. See the flying machines in a whole new Halloween light.

Night of the Circle: Stories from the Otherworld, 31 October

Storytellers from across the globe will be taking up residence at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh for Halloween. Listen to scary stories from around the world as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Samhuinn, 31 October

Celebrate Halloween with fire in the Old Town, Edinburgh. The festival celebrates the original Celtic roots of Halloween and the eternal battle between darkness and light. Follow the procession from the Royal Mile as it makes its way through the streets of the Capital.

Spooky plants at Samhuinn, 31 October

This afternoon session at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is suitable for those aged seven and over. Find out more about the plants and foods associated with the beginning of the Pagan new year.

The Wicked Walk, Newhailes, Musselburgh

Take a night-time wander around Newhailes and experience some scary fun. The Wicked Walk is suitable for older children - remember to wear fancy dress.

Halloween skating, Kirkcaldy

Put on your scariest outfit and a pair of skates to take part in Kirkcaldy's Halloween sponsored ice skating at the Kirkcaldy Ice rink.

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