Everything you need for a traditional Scottish Halloween - from apples to treacle scones

Halloween is just around the corner, and if you want to celebrate in traditional style, you'll need to add these items to your shopping list.

Published 23rd Oct 2023
Updated 23 rd Oct 2023

Halloween coincides with Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival which marked the end of summer, and (as was traditional in Scotland) celebrated the harvest and heralded the coming of winter.

Most of these traditions come from that time, in one way or another, and were popular for years.

But Halloween these days comprises of trick or treating, carving pumpkins and maybe a pumpkin spice drink or two.

But before this Americanisation of the 31 October, Scotland has its own traditions. If you'd like to hark back to these, this is what you'll need to buy - and why.

Turnip or turnips

Traditional Scottish Halloween
Edinburgh guisers warm their hands over their tumshie lantern in 1956. Picture: TSPL

The pumpkin may now reign supreme, but before you could get your hands on the orange fruit, people in Scotland (and Ireland) carved a turnip, known as a neep lantern.

The rutabaga swede, known in Scotland as neep or a tumshie, was carved and a candle put inside as an and adapted as a way to ward off the spirits of the dead at this time of year.

This was done in the place of the old rituals of bonfires (which perhaps coincidentally went on to become a huge part of the Guy Fawkes celebrations on the fifth of November).

Despite falling out of fashion, in favour of a pumpkin (possibly picked from a local patch), many Scots still carve a turnip and it remains at the heart of their Halloween celebrations.

The aroma of burning neep remains as the unmistakable scent of Halloween for many.

A bag of apples

Traditional Scottish Halloween
You went dooking for apples at Halloween. Picture TSPL

An abundant fruit in autumn, make sure you pick up some apples at the supermarket or local shop, or why not go out and pick your own?

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Dooking for apples, also known as apple bobbing, dates back to a Pagan festival when the fruit was thought to be sacred.

What has remained a game in Scotland for years, all you need to do is fill up a basin with water and float the apples in them.

Players then try and grab one, or you can stand on a chair above the basin, with a fork in your mouth, and try to spear one that way.

Treacle scones

Picture: Unsplash/ Ryu Orn

Another game which involves food, and not using your hands to eat it.

For years, Scots have been hanging a scone from a string, covering it in treacle and trying to take a bite out of it.

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Oatmeal, cream and sugar

Traditional Scottish Halloween
Picture: Unsplash/Markus Spiske

While thins sounds like you might be making breakfast, you'll need these ingredients for Fuarag, a pretty much forgotten traditional dish for Halloween.

Many of the most prominent Halloween activities above, such as dooking for apples, focused on divining the future at this liminal time of year.

Fuarag was no exception and would see various objects placed within a bowl of raw oatmeal mixed with cream and sugar - of late many have replaced this with mashed potatoes (or champit tatties) - and each guest, often blindfolded, given a spoon to take their share.

The objects that were discovered were then used to foretell that person's future.

Find out more about Fuarag, and how to make it, here.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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