Friday, 1 November 2013


Did you know that guising, or trick or treating has been around in Britain for a very long time?

Children, and the poor used to go souling from door to door (on All Souls Day, November 2nd).  Singing and saying prayers for the dead, in return for food, and especially, soul cakes.  You had to eat soul cakes because you were doing the dead a favour.  Every one eaten meant a soul was released from purgatory (this is from the Christian religion by the way).  If you want to release some souls, there's a recipe here (They look pretty good).

Scottish children out guising
People don't go souling any more, although some communities do still go trick or treating, or guising, on the 2nd November.

Halloween is hugely associated with Christianity, although people have always felt a connection with 'the other side' at this time of the year.  Halloween is merely the Pagan Samhain, Christianified.

In Scotland children have been disguising themselves in costumes and going door to door at Halloween, guising, since at least 1895.

Guising involves disguising yourself, or just dressing up as someone/something else, and going door to door (although only to doors where there's some sign of interest in Halloween, like a carved pumpkin, or turnip).  You then have to perform a song or a joke, or something similar, in return for which you get sweets, nuts, fruit, and little presents.  Sometimes you get money too, but very rarely.

Me, modelling Steve's head.
 Part of the fun is sorting out your outfits.  This year the girls were a witch, and Little Red Riding Hood, so we already had outfits for them.  The boy wanted to be Steve from Minecraft.  So I got busy with stanley blade, and printer, and fashioned him a head (check out this great blog post all about it).  There are plenty of other Minecraft things you can find out about online.  This sword and pickaxe are particularly awesome, although we didn't make them.  This torch is also very good, and a pretty easy make.  We did make these.

Minecraft torch
Another part of the fun of guising is working out what joke or song you are going to do.  This year there were a lot of jokes about pumpkins.  Our girls, and their friends, sang a pumpkin song which you can find here.  They sang it beautifully-ish.

We had LOTS of kids around guising this year, so that even though I bought more treats than ever before, we ran out!  Friends came to the rescue with some rather marvellous buns, but we had a couple of groups of older kids who missed out.  One group were loudly banging on the door, after my children had gone to bed, and then threw bits of pumpkin at the house.  I'm not impressed by such behaviour, but it is in the great tradition of trick or treating.

Trick or treating has not really taken off in Scotland, but it's quite the thing in America, since the 1940s, and in England too now.  This involves dressing up, but then just calling 'trick or treat', and expecting sweets, or threatening mischief.  Personally I prefer guising, but I suspect trick or treating is quicker.

Growing up in Yorkshire, we celebrated Halloween, and then, a few days later, on November 4th would come Mischief Night.  When children would go out and pull pranks for fun.  Those pranks however, got out of hand and caused lots of damage.  My Dad tells me that Mischief night has now been subsumed into Halloween, and I'm guessing it's the source of the trick in trick or treat.  Me?  I could live without it, but as long as it isn't too bad it's OK don't you think?

Fun at the school Halloween party
One of the other good things about Halloween is parties.  We had the school party the other night, which was a bit manic, but good fun, and we've got a friend's party tonight.  I can't wait, and I'm always glad of the excuse to wear makeup and get the crimpers out.

Do you like Halloween?  Or are you one of those people who hides in the dark, hoping no-one will come 'round?  Have you had a happy Halloween this year?

Some other posts (which all mention Halloween) you might like: