A Scottish Cemetery Visit on Halloween

One of my favorite benefits of business travel is seeing new cities, towns and countries, and experiencing different cultures.

I’m in Scotland for business and today is Halloween. When I arrived here, I wasn’t sure if Halloween is celebrated in the UK or not. Oh yes it is, and for much longer than it’s been celebrated in North America.

A bit of history:

The Celtic festival Samhain is one of the four quarter festivals. In Gaelic it is Samhuinn which means hallow tide or season, the feast of all-souls. The souls of all the dead are said to be free on that day, 1st November. 1st November was the first day of the Celtic new year and the transition between old and new year was believed to set free evil spirits which would visit your house.

Halloween is actually the night before where lanterns (Gaelic: samhnag), Hallowfires and such are supposed to scare the souls that will emerge at midnight, away from your house.

Halloween customs in Scotland these days consist chiefly of children going door to door “guising” (or “Galoshin” on the south bank of the lower Clyde) dressing up and offering entertainment of various sorts in return for gifts. The Witchcraft Act of 1735 contained a clause preventing the consumption of pork and pastry comestibles on Halloween although these days sausage rolls seem to a popular treat for children – the act was repealed in the 1950s.

The children are invariably dressed up as something supernatural or spooky and the entertainment usually consists of singing, telling a poem or joke etc. They don’t ‘trick’ you if you do not give, as in America. However, after the showing of ET in the early 80s, the influence of American “trick or treating” seems to have become more prevelant at least in England. Hollowed out turnips with candles in them are sometimes displayed or carried.

I visited a local Scottish cemetery this morning. I would have gone at midnight to experience the freed evil spirits, but I need to be up early for work tomorrow (nice excuse, ay?). There was nothing scary about the cemetery on this beautiful fall morning. It’s a lovely resting place for all those that are here.

The granite headstones are massive and represent many members of a family on each memorial, many dating from the 1800’s. What was most interesting were the engravings that identify the career of the deceased: Art Teacher, Merchant, Staff Commander in the Royal Navy, Builder of the Bridge of Dee, Shipmaster, and Fish Curer a few of the careers vewed. Two things to note here: (1) How long a list would be on the gravestones of people in this day and age of multi-careers? And (2) I’m very glad I’m not a Fish Curer!

More cemetery views are at My Flickr Page. Let me know if you see any evil spirits lurking!

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