Halloween Blogfest: Rosemary Gemmell

A Scottish Halloween
by Rosemary Gemmell
Every year, the excitement began with choosing a disguise for going out on galoshans, as we called guising in my area of the west coast of Scotland. It didn’t matter how simple or elaborate the costume, our main requirement was to have a song, a dance, or a verse ready to entertain anyone who welcomed us into their home. Trick or treat is a more modern Americanised import, so our only tricks were the magic kind, if that was the child’s party piece. Most people rewarded us with a variety of nuts in their shells, such as monkey nuts (peanuts), walnuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts, as well as apples and oranges. Some of us were lucky enough to receive a shiny coin.

Here’s the little rhyme I wrote for my own children to perform when young:

Witches and wizards,
Broomsticks and bats,
Wild hair and face paints,
Long pokey hats.

Turnip face lanterns
Eerie and bright,
Lighting the way
On this dark, scary night.

Ghosties and ghouls
In the streets can be seen,
But there’s no need to fear
For it’s just Halloween.

The other fun preparation was making the turnip lantern to sit at the door or on a table. Rather than pumpkins, which we rarely saw as children, our lantern was carved from a large, knobbly hard turnip. After carefully cutting the top off and removing the inside flesh, an adult then cut out the triangular eyes and curved mouth and placed a short candle inside so the lantern face grimaced at all who came near.

Many families played the traditional dookin’ for apples with anyone willing to get slightly wet. Two forms of this were popular and both involved a large basin of water into which the adults placed the apples. In our family, we used to lean over the back of a chair with a fork between the teeth. After someone gave the apples a good stir, we had to take aim and drop the fork in the hope of spearing an apple. Other families dispensed with the chair and allowed the child to kneel over the basin to catch an apple between the teeth. Both forms had disadvantages! Toffee apples on a stick were also popular at this time of year and it’s no wonder the dentist was kept busy, with hardened tooth-rotting toffee covering most of the apple. Delicious when we bit through the hardness into the soft juicy apple but not recommended so much these days!

Halloween was enormous, innocent fun for children and, although many of these traditions are still carried on, these days we make sure an adult is never far away when children are knocking on neighbours’ doors.

the Jigsaw Puzzle 200x300I’m happy to offer the prize of a free e-copy of slightly creepy Middle Grade book, The Jigsaw Puzzle, which is set in the Scottish countryside at Hogmanay.

About the Author: Rosemary Gemmell is a Scottish freelance writer whose short stories, articles and children’s stories are published in UK national magazines, in the US, and online. The Jigsaw Puzzle is her second MG/ tween book published by MuseItUp Publishing (as Ros). Her first tween book, Summer of the Eagles, was published last year. Her historical novels, Dangerous Deceit, Mischief at Mulberry Manor and Midwinter Masquerade (released on October 24th) are published under the name Romy, along with short contemporary novella, The Aphrodite Touch. Rosemary is a member of the Society of Authors, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Website: http://www.rosemarygemmell.com
Main Blog: http://ros-readingandwriting.blogspot.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Romy-Gemmell/e/B005WAJD92/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
All formats from MuseItUp Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/new-releases/the-jigsaw-puzzle-detail


  1. Just loved the Jigsaw Puzzle. Too bad I already own a copy. My 10-year-old son loved it too.

  2. Susan A. Royal says:

    I love hearing how the holiday is celebrated in your part of the world. It’s a delightful time of the year. Every year I pull out my stash of Halloween books to read to the grandkids so we can all have a delightful ‘scare’.

  3. Fun rhyme

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  4. Awesome post Romy. And I love that rhyme!

  5. Thanks for hosting Romy today. What a fun post. Check out her latest book, Midwinter Masquerade, which was just published last Thursday, the 24th. A Regency romance set in Scotland on the winter solstice.

  6. Many thanks for dropping by, lovely Tirgearr!

  7. Thank you for the lovely comments. The winner of an e-copy of The Jigsaw Puzzle is Susan A Royal.

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