Thanks to Marie Treanor for treating us to such a fun and informative guest post. I had a lot of fun learning more about Halloween customs and I hope that you find it as cool as I did. It's always interesting to me that when we Americanize a holiday it seems to become more commercial and less about traditions. Sad really. I think I prefer the old ways more.
Our traditions are pretty simple: We take the kids to Apple Annie's, this little orchard up in Willcox, to pick pumpkins and vegetables, walk through the creepy corn maze, and maybe go on a hayride. We stock up on local food stuffs like desert honey and apple butter too. Then we spend an afternoon turning our front yard into a cemetery and hang spiderwebs and lights on the porch. Costumes are usually pretty simple for monster #1: Jedi, Stormtrooper, or homemade Ghostbuster. Monster #2 changes about a million times every year but this year we have settled on Frankiestein, a Monster High character that she loves (She wanted to be Draculaura but mean 'ol mommy thought the outfit was too skimpy for a 9 year old). Over the years I have tried to teach them the more traditional aspects of the holiday, like celebrating the end of summer and honoring those that have left our world behind, but I imagine that those details won't be as important until they grow up a bit. We'll see.
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As Halloween approaches, all things scary, spooky and monstrous seem to be on everyone’s
minds. It’s no different in my house, where my eight year old daughter is desperately trying
to work out whether she should be a werewolf or a zombie for the occasion!
I know America has a particular fondness for this “holiday”, with long-standing “trick or
treat” traditions – which, incidentally, have been spreading around the UK in recent years.
Even in my home country, Scotland, where we have our own very distinctive traditions,
many of the kids I open the door to at Halloween, greet me now with, “Trick or treat!”
Although I’m a traditionalist at heart, I don’t mind that, because they’re not substituting one
tradition for another, they’re just adding to their own customs.
Anyway, I thought I’d tell you today about Scotland’s Halloween habits. As you’ve probably
guessed, the children dress up and go round their neighbours’ houses, much like American
children. Only, we call it “guising” – as in “disguising”, I suppose! – and the children are
all prepared with some sort of turn – a song, a dance, a scary little play, or just a Halloween
joke or two – which they do at your door or in your house, and then receive sweets, nuts,
fruit, cake or other goodies, and sometimes a bit of loose change. I believe it’s a hangover
from medieval times, when visiting mummers would dress up and entertain in the spirit of All
We live in a village, so it’s usually great fun and quite safe for guisers. One of the kids in a
given group nearly always knows someone in each house, so they usually just keep going
from house to house until they get too cold and decide to come home and divide the spoils.
The “turns” they do can be amazing, everything from the tiny child clutching his mum’s hand
and telling a bad joke about a skeleton, to an elaborately choreographed dance routine from
well rehearsed eleven or twelve year olds.
We have Halloween party traditions too. Including “dooking” for apples: you can either kneel
on a chair, with a basin of water and apples on the floor beneath you, stick the handle of a
fork in your mouth and then drop it into the basin and hope to prong an apple; or you can
just stick your face right in the basin of water and grab an apple with your teeth . Neither’s as
easy as it looks!
And then there’s “biting the treacle scone” – which is extraordinarily messy. Some scones are
hung from a piece of string at around head-height, and covered in black treacle. The kids are
blind-folded and have to try and take a bite of a scone. You really need a hosepipe to clean up
after that one!
I’ll probably avoid the treacle scones, but we may dook for apples. My daughter will
certainly want to go guising, although my teenage sons are too old to go on their own behalf
now. And we’ll have some fruit and sweets ready to give to the guisers who’re bound to come to our door.
What will you do this Halloween? Will you dress up, party, take kids out on their scary
missions? What’s the custom where you are?
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Elizabeth Silk is struggling to reconcile her passion for the vampire overlord Saloman and her allegiance to the vampire hunters. When a shocking vampire revolt calls Saloman away from her, she refuses to follow him.
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