Hallowe’en Traditions

Scotland has had some peculiar traditions for Hallowe’en!


Some, thankfully, have been lost over the centuries (along with the tradition of giving a herring dressed up in bows and bonnets at New Year), but some are still around today. See how many you recognise…


Neep carving 


Before the tradition of pumpkin carving stole across the Atlantic from America, the Scots carved turnips – or neeps – into lanterns and lit them to ward off potentially malevolent entities. A hardy few still carve , and the end result is certainly creepier – although most admit that pumpkins are largely more convenient.


Apple Dookin’ 


Have you ever been dookin’ for apples? The traditional game involves filling a tub with apples and water, then trying to catch floating apples out with your teeth. The game’s origins are uncertain, but it’s thought to be a method of fortune-telling who your true love will be.




It’s not trick-or-treating – it’s guising, short for disguising! Long before “trick or treat” Scottish children dressed up as evil spirits and went round the houses. They had to tell a joke or perform a short poem or song before receiving their treat – nuts, apples, sweets or occasionally coins.


Treacle Scones 


A game of apple dookin’ is usually preceded by the messier game of treacle scones, where sticky scones are hung from strings and players try to eat them without their hands – with as little mess as possible. Unfortunately, not many are successful, so dookin’ for apples has the added bonus of washing faces clean!




We’re not joking. Another traditional way of finding out who your true love would be was to go to the vegetable patch and pick the first kale stalk you saw. Its shape told the look of their your spouse, and the taste would tell personality. The poem Hallowe’en by Burns, which you can read in full here, tells the consequences of pulling kale stalks…


“Some merry, friendly, country-folks
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, an’ pou their stocks,
An’ haud their Hallowe’en
Fu’ blythe that night”


Do you know any other unusual Scottish traditions at Hallowe’en? Let us know if the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.