All Hallows Eve will soon be upon us, or Halloween as it is commonly now known, writes Neil Thomson. The name “Hallow’een” is a gift from the Scots, who traditionally like scaring the daylights out of each other.
For a nation which is historically famous for possessing one of the “doorest” of religions, we have always had a fascination with ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. It was a peculiarity we exported to the Colonies, particularly the United States, and who, in turn, are now exporting it back to us with additional razzmatazz. Don’t get me wrong, I like most of the “Americanised” Halloween. Any excuse to dress up as Dracula is fine by me. I like the fact they’ve made it almost holiday-ish, where spooky decorations go up about a week in advance, and people use it as an excuse to get together and have Halloween parties. But, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still called “guising“, not “trick-or-treat”, and pumpkins are a very poor substitute for a “neepy lantern”.
I remember going guising as a youngster, a great opportunity to get given sweets in exchange for a very poor rendition of “The Witches of Halloween” or a couple of ancient knock-knock jokes. Fantastic.
That is, until you’re too old to go guising, and you become the recipient of very poor versions of “The Witches of Halloween” or ancient knock-knock jokes. You part with a handful of mini Mars Bars and are convinced you got the worse of the transaction.
No guising costume of my youth stands out in my memory, probably because they were all based to the standard “white-sheet-with-hole-cut-out” pattern, a bit like a winter-camouflage poncho. It wasn’t until you were older that face paints and fake blood became involved. But the Americans have taken the dressing up bit to a whole new level, with gruesomely realistic costumes replacing ketchup smeared bed linen. At least now, while you are being serenaded by a 15th rendition of “The Witches of Halloween, you can admire the effort of the modern day Halloween costume.
But, keep your pumpkins, a neepy lantern wins every time. To start with, there is no smell quite like a neepy lantern with a lit candle inside it, and you get to make a wee lum in the lid and a scary face. Plus, you can have the bit left from the hollowing out with your mince and tatties. A win-win situation. Sure, you can make pumpkin pie with the left over hollowings-out of the pumpkin, and it’s quite fine, but not a scratch on mince, neeps and tatties.
I remember one year, while still living in Aberdeen, we didn’t get a big enough neep for a lantern in time, so my father cunningly constructed a lantern out of an old paint tin. It was an effective substitute, that was until the internal candle was lit and the can would heat up rapidly making it too hot to carry!