Scottish origins of Halloween

Scottish origins of Halloween

Posted by Tartanista on 29th Mar 2022

During the last centuries, Halloween became massively popular in the United States and was celebrated by many countries all over the world, but only a few people are aware of its Celtic origins.

The Gaelic festival of Samhain, celebrated throughout Scotland, marked the culmination of summer and the end of the harvesting season. But for those living in Medieval Scotland, Samhain was more than just a harvesting festival.

It was believed by the Celts that on the last night of October, the boundary between the real world and the world of ghosts and fairies was at its weakness. As part of the festival, special bonfires, meant to have protective and cleansing powers were lit.

One of the most famous Scottish Halloween traditions during those times was carving turnips to create lanterns which were meant to keep evil spirits away. With time, turnips were replaced by the already famous Halloween pumpkin, which is considerably easier to carve. However, for many Scots, the scent of burning turnips still represents the unmistakable scent of Halloween.

The “trick and treat” tradition didn't exist during Medieval times, although children were dressing up and pretending to be evil spirits. The reason they were dressing up as evil spirits like ghosts and witches was so they could venture out safely without being recognised as human beings by wicked ghosts.

Back then, children had to perform a “trick” by singing a song or reciting a poem to their neighbours, before being rewarded with apples or nuts, which is how the tradition started.