Halloween in the UK

I'm so old that, to me, Halloween is a purely American thing. Not only did I not do trick and treat as a child, but I've never seen any children do it, let alone have any come to my door. Yes, supermarkets are stuffed with scary goods, but they would be, wouldn't they. Is it much of a thing these days?
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Comments

  • BlahblahBlahblah Shipmate
    It's a lot more than it was in the past - lots of stuff in the shops now.

    As an ex-church person, it's not really a part of my upbringing or anything I did as a child. But I do enjoy the colours and the pleasure people gain from it as an adult.

    There is a really wholesome running gag about it on the TV show Modern Family. Which itself is something of a sad and guilty pleasure, and yet is really good.
  • I am a Halloween grump, and a hypocrite about it. Its the cultural imperialism thing, yet I have fond childhood memories of my Dad putting on Bing Crosby's White Christmas and can sing a bit of it still. I also like West Side Story, am a fan of Maria Callas, love bluegrass and blues, together with gospel music and American politics.

    Yet for all that, I still hate Halloween.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    We refuse donations, and also refuse to have hollowed pumpkins (the unmolested pumpkins were on sale before we left). Some friends came across the right answer a couple of years ago. They sat something which looked to all intents inviting, innocent and inoffensive by the front door, then watched the reactions of those who dared touch it. A large spider, rather like a funnelweb, jumped out.
  • I rarely get trick and treating where I live in the UK. Something perhaps to do with many of the children being raised in Muslim households. Not as simply as a Muslim majority area, because we have a lot of students and a sizeable homeless population both of which tend not to have children.

    When I was a Brownie, on the Monday night closest to Halloween, our pack had a Halloween party. This was a fancy dress event with a Halloween theme and included traditional games such as apple bobbing and party food. This seems to me to be an English traditional Halloween. It did not involve trick or treating but it did have other traditions.

    No, we were not saints. This was Yorkshire and on the 4th November, there was mischief night. Admittedly participation in that only started when we were about to start Guides.
  • FredegundFredegund Shipmate
    I don't remember it as a child. Don't like it much as it gives folks an excuse to cause trouble; really don't like trying to get eggs off the front of the house, especially when the things have dried. Chilperic found the perfect answer one year; he was cooking, and without thinking answered the door in an apron holding a bloody meat cleaver. Oh the screams from the traumatised children....With him abroad, I douse all the lights after about 7 and pretend I'm not in. If we get small children earlier I have been known to offer fairtrade biscuits and fruit as an antidote to sweeties elsewhere. Perhaps I should answer the door in the plague mask.
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    Far from being American, it is very much a Scottish thing and always has been. Travelled from there (with some other traditions from Central Europe) to America and Canada. Forever here we have been carving needs, cooking for apples and going guising. All great fun! The commercialisation has only crept in since the American traditions hit England.
  • Another Scot who grew up with Hallowe'en, guising round the neighbours, trying to eat treacly scones hanging from a string, dooking for apples etc. I'll have a tray of sweeties at the ready and will look forward to having kids at my door on the 31st.

    The teenage aspect seems to have disappeared - peeling an apple and throwing the peel over your left shoulder to discover the initial of your future husband seems to be a lost art.
  • Penny SPenny S Shipmate
    That's neeps, isn't it?
    Kent police give out little posters to stick on the door saying one is an old grouch and not playing! I have a stack.
    I have seen houses will have a lighted pumpkin to show they are joining in. Which is better, being positive.
    In Guides, we had a Halloween evening with apple bobbing, also buns hanging from a clothes line. I also remember looking in a mirror by candlelight and attempting to peel an apple in one go to get the initial of a future sweetheart. (Never met one beginning with S.)
  • Good to hear from the Scots, as I was baffled to hear talk of American influence. Eh? I thought it was an import to the US.
  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    In the 1960s I remember hollowing out turnip lanterns (much harder than pumpkins!), and parties with apple bobbing. Trick or treat came later - kids went round for Penny for the Guy instead.
    I also remember peeling an apple in one go to throw the peel over my shoulder to make the initial of my future husband - but we did that at any time, not just Hallowe'en.
  • I do like pumpkins! So much easier on the hands than neeps! Plus pumpkin pie beats chappit neep any day.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    I remember with great fondness Halloween in exactly the way described by Cathscats and NEQ. I remember also ( and perhaps I shouldn't say this ) 'blacking up' with burnt cork to be dressed as pirates etc. 'dooking' for apples and treacle scones hanging from a rope were popular things for the children, but there was no mention of 'trick or treat'.
  • I always thought it was Celtic in origin, although how much of it goes back to the Samhain quarter day, I don't know. I think it's strongholds were Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, where guising and turnip carving were practised. There is controversy over how pagan it was, and how much derived from All Hallows. Presumably exported from Scotland and Ireland to US. What's the Gaelic name for it?
  • Penny S wrote: »
    I have seen houses will have a lighted pumpkin to show they are joining in. Which is better, being positive.
    Yes, we've got one (with a battery in it) which we put out - £2 from Asda. We had a lovely Hallowe'en in our street last year.

  • Some websites talk of it existing in England historically, I don't know how extensively. Presumably close to Scotland.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited October 9
    Well, I come from London suburbia and I remember doing it like Eigon in the early 1960s - apple-bobbing in the kitchen and stumbling around the garden in the dark with candles in jamjars (so much easier than turnip lanterns!) And my big sister definitely went to fancy-dress parties. But no trick-or-treating, although my from-near-Glasgow wife remembers guising. I did have a "Pan Book of Party Games" (published c.1958) which had a page devoted to Hallowe'en games. https://tinyurl.com/y5u2nrht
  • Well, in Ireland it seems medieval, if not before, and according to folklorists, pagan, connected to Samhain, (quarter day), Oiche Shamhna, in Irish. I just wondered what the English were doing, but then Celts had been driven out of England, I think.
  • Forthview wrote: »
    I remember with great fondness Halloween in exactly the way described by Cathscats and NEQ. I remember also ( and perhaps I shouldn't say this ) 'blacking up' with burnt cork to be dressed as pirates etc. 'dooking' for apples and treacle scones hanging from a rope were popular things for the children, but there was no mention of 'trick or treat'.

    During the recent news reporting of Justin Trudeau having "blacked up" it occurred to me that a large percentage of Scots will have done this as children at Halloween. We dressed up in whatever costume was easy to cobble together, which might be a witch or ghost, but usually wasn't.

    One of our neighbours made a splendid sausage out of chickenwire and papier mache. Each of his four children wore it for two or three years until it was passed to the next child.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Presumably exported from Scotland and Ireland to US.

    So, was it the Scots-Irish who settled in and around Appalachia who brought it over? Or Irish Catholics in the northeast cities etc? Or both?

    (Not neccesaarily expecting you to know, just sort of throwing the question out there.)

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Forthview wrote: »
    I remember with great fondness Halloween in exactly the way described by Cathscats and NEQ. I remember also ( and perhaps I shouldn't say this ) 'blacking up' with burnt cork to be dressed as pirates etc. 'dooking' for apples and treacle scones hanging from a rope were popular things for the children, but there was no mention of 'trick or treat'.

    During the recent news reporting of Justin Trudeau having "blacked up" it occurred to me that a large percentage of Scots will have done this as children at Halloween. We dressed up in whatever costume was easy to cobble together, which might be a witch or ghost, but usually wasn't.

    I'd say a lot of Canadians have done that as well, or at least been present when someone else did it, without finding anything amiss about it. At my high school, a girl did a blackface performance to the reggae song "Legalize It" one year for the drama-class talent show. I don't recall any complaints.

    I think partly what drove the reaction against Trudeau(such as it was) was that people could speculate about just how unforgiving the Liberals would have been had one of their oppnents been photographed doing that in the year 2001.

  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    edited October 9
    There was no 'Trick or Treat' at Halloween in London where I lived, but we used to make guys and wheel them out in prams standing outside pubs asking for 'penny for the guy' during the couple of weeks before November 5th, and we used to knock on doors and sing carols hoping for cash at Christmas: all for pocket money, not for charity.

    I don't like 'trick or treat' as the tricks are sometimes nasty and I don't like to be blackmailed.

    Hallowe'en came from the Church originally, didn't it, as All Hallows Eve. Odd then that some churches have Light parties as they think it wrong?
  • stetson wrote: »
    Presumably exported from Scotland and Ireland to US.

    So, was it the Scots-Irish who settled in and around Appalachia who brought it over? Or Irish Catholics in the northeast cities etc? Or both?

    (Not neccesaarily expecting you to know, just sort of throwing the question out there.)
    Well, The Wiki says:
    Almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th century give no indication that Halloween was widely celebrated in North America. It was not until mass Irish and Scottish immigration in the 19th century that Halloween became a major holiday in North America. Confined to the immigrant communities during the mid-19th century, it was gradually assimilated into mainstream society and by the first decade of the 20th century it was being celebrated coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.

    I'll admit that Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year.

  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Good to hear from the Scots, as I was baffled to hear talk of American influence. Eh? I thought it was an import to the US.
    It is rather amusing to here the queen of all sorts of imperialism, including real cultural imperialism (and the capital of fancy dress) complain about its own choosing of another excuse to wear costume.
    And it is an SOF tradition to complain that "we do not do that" only to find out that indeed, we do.
    I would add that as far as I am aware, the Americans curbed the worst of the mischief on Halloween long before their version came back over the pond. So the damage done in the UK is not an import, but home-grown.
    I, too, welcome the pumpkin. Better in taste and more room to carve.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Nuts. It was the one night of the year when we got a bag of mixed nuts and a hammer and scattered shards of shell all over the hearth rug.
  • Guy Fawkes, Bonfire Night and Penny for the Guy were definitely part of my childhood. Haven't seen kids collecting for years, but family firework parties must be a thing of the past.
  • ForthviewForthview Shipmate
    Guy Fawkes for me was a more 'English' thing but we certainly had bonfires.
    On the other hand when I would be in Austria on 31st October and 1st November it was, in a way ,one of the most magical nights of the year. The cemeteries were ablaze with the lights of thousands of candles. In our district in Carinthia in the south snow would often have fallen and the combination of snow and the greenery of the snow covered trees as well as the candles and lamps and the many , many people was and still is unforgettable
  • It is interesting that for English people, it seems like an American import, since the Celtic tradition, possibly going back to Samhain, (pagan harvest festival), disappeared to a large extent in England, but survived in Scotland and Ireland and I of M. And thence was exported to the US.

    As to the fusion with All Hallows, there is disagreement about this, some arguing that the Christian tradition was dominant, others arguing for a blend of Christian and pagan. This would explain the survival of "malignant spirits", but it may be undecidable. Certainly, modern pagans (like my wife), are adamant about Samhain being the original festival, but maybe this is faith!
  • Forthview wrote: »
    I remember with great fondness Halloween in exactly the way described by Cathscats and NEQ. I remember also ( and perhaps I shouldn't say this ) 'blacking up' with burnt cork to be dressed as pirates etc. 'dooking' for apples and treacle scones hanging from a rope were popular things for the children, but there was no mention of 'trick or treat'.

    I thinking blacking to look like a supernatural being is a slightly different proposition than trying to look like a (caricature) of a member of another race.
  • ZacchaeusZacchaeus Shipmate
    Eigon wrote: »
    In the 1960s I remember hollowing out turnip lanterns (much harder than pumpkins!), and parties with apple bobbing. Trick or treat came later - kids went round for Penny for the Guy instead.
    I also remember peeling an apple in one go to throw the peel over my shoulder to make the initial of my future husband - but we did that at any time, not just Hallowe'en.

    Me too, back in the dim and distant past we made turnip lanterns and had halloween aprties
  • ZacchaeusZacchaeus Shipmate
    Agatha Christie wrote a book called Halloween party in the 1960's.
  • BlahblahBlahblah Shipmate
    Forthview wrote: »
    I remember with great fondness Halloween in exactly the way described by Cathscats and NEQ. I remember also ( and perhaps I shouldn't say this ) 'blacking up' with burnt cork to be dressed as pirates etc. 'dooking' for apples and treacle scones hanging from a rope were popular things for the children, but there was no mention of 'trick or treat'.

    I thinking blacking to look like a supernatural being is a slightly different proposition than trying to look like a (caricature) of a member of another race.

    There might be a thread in this, but the two things are intertwined. There is a big debate about it in Morris Dancing circles, because some groups have traditionally "blacked up" as sweeps and other mythical bogiemen. And yet the truth of this is lost in the midst of time. Maybe the sweep covered up a form of institutional racism.

    In truth, I doubt it. Partly because the English have rarely been coy about their racism. Why would they need to hide it and pretend it was all about sweeps?

    These days people in Morris groups who want to change their appearance without dealing with the possible consequences and difficulties of causing offense either don't do it at all or choose inoffensive colours and make more of an effort to look deliberately alien.

  • BlahblahBlahblah Shipmate
    Also, perhaps bringing this back to the discussion of Halloween, there is a certain level of "allowable" dressing up going on. The green warty witch for one.

    Is this acceptable because the witch is green, a non-human colour?

  • One of the essential parts of (Scottish) guising is that you do a ‘turn’ as well as dress up. Might be a hallowe’en joke or poem or song.

    That caused all sorts of confusion when I moved to England and would demand of kids at the door “what are you going to do?” Lot of blank looks!

    Sadly out of print but Rumer Godden’s ‘Mr McFadden’s Hallowe’en’ was one of my favourite childhood books and gives a real flavour of a Scottish Hallowe’en
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    Well, I come from London suburbia and I remember doing it like Eigon in the early 1960s - apple-bobbing in the kitchen and stumbling around the garden in the dark with candles in jamjars (so much easier than turnip lanterns!) And my big sister definitely went to fancy-dress parties. But no trick-or-treating, although my from-near-Glasgow wife remembers guising. I did have a "Pan Book of Party Games" (published c.1958) which had a page devoted to Hallowe'en games. https://tinyurl.com/y5u2nrht

    My Dad, brought up in Liverpool at a similar period, has talked about apple-bobbing in the Scouts and a game called 'meeting Lord Nelson' - one boy is blindfolded and then told 'this is Lord Nelson's hand' (other boy puts his elbow in blindfolded boy's hand), 'this is Lord Nelson's eye' (blindfolded boy's finger pushed through a hollowed-out orange or similar), etc.
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    I always thought it was Celtic in origin, although how much of it goes back to the Samhain quarter day, I don't know. I think it's strongholds were Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, where guising and turnip carving were practised. There is controversy over how pagan it was, and how much derived from All Hallows. Presumably exported from Scotland and Ireland to US. What's the Gaelic name for it?

    AIUI, the problem is that what we 'know' about Celtic religion tends to be a mixture of:

    1. Guesswork from things dug up by archaeologists
    2. What the Greeks said the Celts believed
    3. What the Romans said the Celts believed
    4. What the Romans said the Greeks said the Celts believed
    5. Traditional Celtic stories that Christian monks incorporated in their own stories, poems and epics, for their own amusement (or possibly, to prove that Irish was just as good as Greek for telling epic poetry)

    Added to which is a nasty tendency by some folklorists to assume that anything traditional in a Celtic part of the British Isles must be a Pagan survival, 'cos obviously it's impossible that Celtic culture could have innovated anything at all since the 5th century.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Unless it can be identified as Native American/First Nations there is nothing that has been exported from the Americas ;)

    However, in our area, if we do not want to be visited by ghost or goblins, we just keep our porch light off.
  • I have no recollection of anything hallowe’en related on the 1970s Luton council estate I was brought up on. (I wasn’t allowed to go along with ‘penny for the guy’ for November 5th either as my mother considered it begging)
    40 years later and this Cambridge council estate has loads of dressed up children go round in groups, often young children with parents or organised routes around friends’ houses. I keep a tub of sweets by the door for them.
  • I usually have a fire in my backyard fire pit on November 5. I doubt that any of my neighbors would ever guess why. (The cooler air usually has gotten under way here in Arizona by November, so it's lovely in the evening -- just right for a fire.) I actually had a Guy Fawkes party one year, and many of my guests were hearing about it for the first time.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited October 10
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Unless it can be identified as Native American/First Nations there is nothing that has been exported from the Americas ;)
    Basketball and Mormonism.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Okay, basketball.
  • It's funny, these British traditions which didn't make it to my Australian family. Usually we imported and cherished such things as reminders of home.
  • Assorted, from 'cross the Pond:

    --Is "penny for the Guy" about getting money to buy fireworks for Guy Fawkes' Day?

    --When someone in the UK is uneasy about the scary or "dark" side of Halloween, do they ever do an alternative sort of jack-o-lantern? People in the US sometimes carve a funny face, or a religious symbol, or a word, or something else creative.

    --What Gramps said, about keeping trick-or-treaters away with darkened porch lights. And turn off any indoor lights that can be seen from the front of your home. If there's any sign someone might be home and awake, going there is fair game. I haven't heard of many actual incidents (from modern times) where disappointed kids vandalized a home when no one came to the door--but best not to provoke them.

    IMHO, FWIW.
  • Golden Key wrote: »
    Assorted, from 'cross the Pond:

    --Is "penny for the Guy" about getting money to buy fireworks for Guy Fawkes' Day?

    --When someone in the UK is uneasy about the scary or "dark" side of Halloween, do they ever do an alternative sort of jack-o-lantern? People in the US sometimes carve a funny face, or a religious symbol, or a word, or something else creative.

    --What Gramps said, about keeping trick-or-treaters away with darkened porch lights. And turn off any indoor lights that can be seen from the front of your home. If there's any sign someone might be home and awake, going there is fair game. I haven't heard of many actual incidents (from modern times) where disappointed kids vandalized a home when no one came to the door--but best not to provoke them.

    IMHO, FWIW.

    We had a group of teenagers one year who were driven round by an older brother so they could egg the houses of teachers they didn't like.
  • Yikes. But that kind of thing is different from kids upset over no one coming to the door and giving them candy.

    Older kids--and prob'ly some grownups--sometimes do awful things at Halloween.
  • Penny for the Guy was precisely raising money for fireworks. You made your Guy (an effigy that would be burnt on the bonfire), sat it on the side of the street, and asked folk to give you money. Ah,the good old days as a child beggar!

    (Tangent. I've read claims that bonfire is a contraction of bone fire, and that these were designed to kill witches. This seems unlikely to me, but does anyone know?)
  • I like this (I guess late 1960s): https://tinyurl.com/yyswkhob
  • CJCfarwest wrote: »
    One of the essential parts of (Scottish) guising is that you do a ‘turn’ as well as dress up. Might be a hallowe’en joke or poem or song.
    exactly - the treat was a reward for your song/joke/performance, and not as an expected payment to avoid mischief being brought upon your house. The "give us sweets or else" is the returning T or T son of the guising parent.

    We're quite GLE (Good Little Evangelical) about it - we don't join in either with giving stuff out or allowing our kids to go and get. Especially with the increasing amount of commercialism involved it seems to be more and more a celebration of the grisly and the gruesome which doesn't sit well with us.
  • I don't like the commercialism associated with any celebration. Bonfire Night seems to have escaped, by and large; maybe because big American companies have never heard of it. However it has always struck me as odd that some people object to a celebration of fantasy creatures (who don't exist) but are happy to glorify the burning of Catholics (who do).

    (And my apologies Wet Kipper. That isn't meant as an attack on you; it's a thought I've had for ages, that was revived by your post.)
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    For non-UK shipmates, Bonfire Night is not 'ancient and Celtic'. It commemorates a specific even that happened on 5th November 1605.

    I don't know, but would suspect it's less significant in Scotland, as until 1707, the Parliament in London that Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were plotting to blow up only related to England and Wales. Although it was the same king from 1603 who would have been murdered, Scotland had a completely separate Parliament of its own.
  • No attack felt, Robert. I'm not too happy about the basis of the Bonfire celebrations either.
    We take the kids to the organised firework display (local one hasn't had a bonfire at it for a few years due to lack of space) because they want to see the fireworks.
    Our approval or not is based on the kids' perception and the activities involved, not just the background

    for Halloween, the kids aren't thinking "I want to mock the ideas of evil figures by dressing up as them in preparation of All Saints Day to follow", they're thinking "I want to dress like a zombie/vampire/devil, scare people and get lots of sweets for nothing"

    on bonfire night they're not thinking "I want to celebrate the death of Catholics who nearly blew up the government" they just want to see flashes and hear bangs and go ooh and aahh.
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