• Rosemary Gemmell

A Scottish Halloween and a Free Book

Unfortunately, the Covid virus and restrictions have curtailed all door-to-door guising in Scotland this year, so I've been remembering my own childhood Halloweens.

Every year, the excitement began with choosing a disguise for going out on galoshans, as we called guising in my area of the west coast of Scotland. It didn’t matter how simple or elaborate the costume, our main requirement was to have a song, a dance, or a verse ready to entertain anyone who welcomed us into their home.

Trick or treat is a more modern Americanised import, so our only tricks were the magic kind, if that was the child’s party piece. Most people rewarded us with a variety of nuts in their shells, such as monkey nuts (peanuts), walnuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts, as well as apples and oranges. Some of us were lucky enough to receive a shiny coin.

The other fun preparation was making the turnip lantern to sit at the door or on a table. Rather than pumpkins, which we rarely saw as children, our lantern was carved from a large, knobbly hard turnip. After carefully cutting the top off and removing the inside flesh, an adult then cut out the triangular eyes and curved mouth and placed a short candle inside so the lantern face grimaced at all who came near.

Many families played the traditional dookin’ for apples with anyone willing to get slightly wet. Two forms of this were popular and both involved a large basin of water into which the adults placed the apples. In our family, we used to lean over the back of a chair with a fork between the teeth. After someone gave the apples a good stir, we had to take aim and drop the fork in the hope of spearing an apple.

Other families dispensed with the chair and allowed the child to kneel over the basin to catch an apple between the teeth. Both forms had disadvantages! Toffee apples on a stick were also popular at this time of year and it’s no wonder the dentist was kept busy, with hardened tooth-rotting toffee covering most of the apple. Delicious when we bit through the hardness into the soft juicy apple but not recommended so much these days!

Halloween was enormous, innocent fun for children and, although many of these traditions are still carried on, these days we make sure an adult is never far away when children are knocking on neighbours’ doors.

To celebrate the time of year, my darker short story collection, End of the Road, is FREE to download through 31 October. This includes quirky black humour, light crime and a couple of darker tales like 'Samhain'. Find it on Amazon UK and Amazon US or wherever you are.

If you prefer a longer, slightly dark read, full length novel HIGHCRAG is Gothic romantic suspense leading up to Samhain.

Happy Halloween!

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