It’s almost that time of year again, when little ghosts and ghouls and witches are prowling the streets hoping to take home a huge bag of goodies from indulgent neighbours. We called it going out in ‘goloshans’ when I was a child, although that seems to be a Celtic word unique to the part of Scotland in which I grew up. Most people call it ‘guising’ these days, and my own children (when young) carried on the tradition of getting dressed up to go round the nearest houses, complete with a bag for the expected nuts and sweets, and a rhyme or joke to make sure they got some!
We only learned about ‘trick or treat’ from watching American films and I’m quite sure some children have now adopted this expression. Our Halloween activities used to be on a much smaller scale and the only requirement for some treat or other was that the child should be dressed up and should perform the aforementioned rhyme or whatever talent they possessed. I’ve heard some great songs from children. The other main activity was dookin’ for apples. A large basin containing apples was filled with water and the apples set whirling around by hand. There were two ways to retrieve an apple: you could either kneel on the floor, hands behind the back, and try to grab an apple with your teeth – great fun and very wet! Or you could kneel over a chair and drop a fork into the water to try and spear an apple.
Our ‘jack o’ lanterns’ were carved out of large turnips, rather than the pumpkins that are now available in most supermarkets. Another treat for children was toffee apples which they carried on a stick – very messy and not so good for the teeth, but delicious once the hard toffee gave way to the juicy fruit. Halloween is also the ancient Celtic Samhain, the night on which the souls of the dead can cross between the two worlds, and I’ve written a story inspired by this darker celebration. But for this more light hearted post, I’ll finish with the little rhyme I wrote many years ago for my own children to recite to neighbours to ensure they brought back a large haul of nuts and sweets!
Witches and wizards, broomsticks and bats,
wild hair and face paints, long pokey hats.
Turnip face lanterns, eerie and bright,
lighting the way on this dark scary night.
Ghosties and ghouls in the streets can be seen,
But there’s no need to fear for it’s just Halloween!
Dangerous Deceit, Champagne Books and Amazon