The Rules of Guising

This is a guest post from my good friend Adam Ramsay, who thinks that Halloween isn’t what it used to be…

Last night was Halloween. I arrived home to adorable hoards of marauding small children, giggling and shrieking their way up and down my usually quiet residenial street – the kind of street where couples move to breed. Knowing my housemate was walking home from work, I quickly called her, and soon, she arrived with a large bowl of sweets to distribute to the various parties who knocked on our door.

The whole event made me infeasibly happy. But it seems that the cultural phenomenon that is Halloween has changed significantly as I have moved South and with time.

You see, I grew up in rural Scotland – the land where Halloween comes from. And so for me, it was all a bit different. So, let me tell you how Halloween worked when I was a child. I think there are five rules:

1. Costumes have to be scary. I know that most are, but there is a creeping “just dressing up” phenomenon. This isn’t OK.

2. Going out on Halloween night and knocking on doors is called “guising” not “trick or treating”.

3. Lanterns should be made from neeps (turnips) not pumpkins. Apart from tradition, there is a simple practical reason why this is better: a carved turnip is of a size that it can be carried by a child. Pumpkin lanterns are much too big, meaning that the purpose is lost.

4. When knocking on the door, the exchange goes like this – children each perform a party trick. Adults give a treat (ideally a toffee apple). You might be invited in to try and dunk for an apple, or eat a donut off a piece of string.

5. It should be frosty outside.

That’s it.

3 responses

  1. I’m a big fan of Scottish Halloween traditions (the cake-on-a-string game is a particular favourite of mine) but I have to admit I quite like pumpkins. Neeps are a bugger to carve and give off a horrible smell when you burn a candle in them.

  2. That sounds fun! Unfortunately Australia has imported the American version in recent years. And it’s ridiculous on 31 October, because it’s warm and bright outside until nearly 9pm.

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