Saturday, October 31, 2009

Young guisers visit a watchman in the Grassmarket in 1957

We don't really do anything for Halloween in our family, and I had no plans to post today, but I've been so charmed by this article in the Edinburgh Evening News that I decided to show you the main photo (sorry, not available on line, so grotty photo!) and a few pararaphs from the text, which is by Judy Vickers. Please enjoy some traditional, and very innocent Scottish celebrations! 'Trick or treating may be an American invader, more or less unheard of on this side of the pond befre the 1980s, but a children's tradition of dressing up and hitting the streets after dark on Halloween to beg for pennies or treats has a long history here.

'But instead of using the vague threat of a "trick" if there is no treat forthcoming, guisers in Scotland traditionally perform a song, tell a joke or otherwise earn their apples or nuts.

'There was no Matalan or Asda for the parents of yesteryear to snap up a bargain vampire or skeleton outfit.

'Homemade was the key - and judging by theese pictures, in the 1950s that amounted to raiding your parents' wardrobe for headscarves, shawls, football scarves and assorted caps. Blacking up faces - or covering them with masks - also has a long tradition in Scotland: it was meant to represent the dead on All Hallows Eve, the night before All Souls Day.

The Chrstian festval was laid on top of an old Celtic one - 31 October was in ancient times the last day of the year, called Samhain by the Druds, meaning summer's end.

But by the 1950s children were rubbing blacking into their faces as part of their disguise (hence guising).'

I thought that was charming information, and explains how the children who will come to our door tonight (to be greeted by a very enthusiastic Son 2) are called 'guisers'. Have a safe and happy time yourselves, whatever you are doing.

10 comments:

Michela said...

Oh, I'm not the only one who is not having any celebration!
Thank you for sharing some Scottish history! Enjoy the rest of your weekend "up North"!

P.S.thanks also for your suggestion about the swap!

Pomona said...

I love hearing about old traditions - which always connect this time of year to All Souls/Hallows/Saints. Rowan at Circle of the Year has done a lovely post about the old festival of Samhain which she uses as an opportunity for an act of remembrance, and marking the passage of the seasons. Much better than all that horrid orange plastic and celebration of dark and evil things!

Pomona x

Sal said...

Great post Floss!
We don't do anything for Halloween but my daughter won first prize in her office 'dressing up' competition!! ;-)

bad penny said...

this is so intersting ...Wee Man has gone out trick or treating

karen said...

thanks hunni
Hubby was only saying a few minutes ago that he remembers having to sing a song for his treat
( hubby's from perthshire, scoltand)
Happy halloween

Serenata said...

Very interesting Floss. Both my boys are at their parties,(slightly disappointed sigh) so hubby and I have a nice three hours to ourselves, before we have to pick YS up.

Oh and guess what?....

Floss said...

I have got to tell you that when the guisers came to the door, Son 2 approached, spotted that they were all attractive girls of about his own age, and went to hide around the corner! It's tricky, being nearly 11...

They each told a Halloween joke in their lovely, soft Edinburgh accents, and were astonishingly polite. Lovely girls.

Dragonfly said...

What a great post - thanks!! We don't celebrate in Australia only, so its nice to hear what everyone else is up to! Have a great weekend :-)

Itch2stitch.com said...

A very interesting post Floss. its interesting finding out how people celebrate, or dont as the case may be! When I lived in Canada, much more was made of it. in this country, it never really seems to have caught on until recently. I have always carved a pumpkin and made soup! Ooh and watched a scary film! suzie. xxx

Mrs. Cozy Home said...

My dad was just telling us last night that when he was a boy (1950's), you had to sing a song (they knew loads), dance or do a trick to earn their treats!! Must hail from the Scots! :)

We had a great celebration, it's one of my very favorite holidays (and my birthday!!), and we get just about as excited for it as Christmas in my household!! :)