A very Scottish Halloween...

October may have seen us battered by Storm Callum (here in Scotland that means we put on our big coats) but October also heralds one of my favourite festivals of the year. Ghost and ghouls and ghastly goings on (and other words beginning with GH) spell one thing; Halloween.

I laugh – behind the safety of the sofa – at those who claim Halloween is yet another Americanism, brought to our shores as nothing more than a money making scheme. Pah! What a load of old Hogwarts. Halloween, as all good fright-fest-freaks can testify, can be traced back almost two thousand years to the ancient Celtic Festival of Samhain. Those Celts knew how to swing, and celebrated New Year on the 1st of November – so the night before they’d light bonfires and wear strange costumes to ward off ghosts. I can confidently say this works, as I indulge in this practice each year and have never been bothered by the scary blighters.  

Anyway, back to the plot, which I have a terrible habit of frequently losing. In Scotland Halloween is almost a rite of passage. As a kid I loved it. But Heaven forefend that we went Trick or Treating, certainly not, we went Guising, and Halloween parties were a must with games like dooking for apples – which involved plunging your head face down into a basin of water full of apples and trying to grab one with your teeth. Actually, I’m not going to say any more on this subject, I’m sure groups of eleven-year-olds being plunged head first into freezing water and made to stay under until they surfaced with an apple between their teeth contravened some Cruelty to Children Act. This jolly jape came after we roamed the streets in sub-zero temperatures, wearing strange home-made costumes and knocking the doors of total strangers to sing and dance for monkey-nuts and a tangerine. Reader I have no idea how I’m still alive to tell the tale.

And we didn’t carve pumpkin lanterns (what the hell is a pumpkin? we’d yelled watching American movies, I was twelve before I saw my first red pepper – and that is NOT a Theresa-kid-on) Anyway, we had Jack-O-Lanterns, which we carved from turnips – to make things more confusing turnips in Scotland are what you in Englandshire would call swedes. The only Swedes we have up here are folk  visiting from Scandinavian countries and tend to be good tennis players. Where was I? Oh yes, carving those flipping turnip/swedes. Try it. It’ll take four days and leave permanent scars and welts the size of Kent on the palm of your hand. My parents, like most of my peer’s, were happy to let me at the tender age of six , plunder my Dad’s toolbox for sharpened chisels and the likes to create a masterpiece that resembled… well a big turnip with a hole in it!

There are loads more I can tell you about growing up with Halloween in Scotland, but I’m a BBC newsreader and Police in Ayrshire have just issued a warning that a huge black panther has been spotted in the village of Drongan. It’s like the grown-up equivalent of when a dog came running through the school-playground and everyone chased it screaming ‘DAAWWWG!!’ We’re all terribly excited and it’s all hands to the pump. (google it if you don’t believe me) It’s a nice distraction for a Friday afternoon, and the public have been warned not to approach it. Savage beast or not, someone’s just tweeted ‘he’s taking his chances nipping through Drongan!’

Happy Halloween!