Posted by: christinelaennec | October 30, 2010

Aberde’eny Hallowe’eny

Tilly the Halloween cat

In the 18 years we’ve lived in Aberdeen, I’ve watched the Americanised version of the holiday take hold.  Hallowe’en has been celebrated in Scotland for centuries; here in the North-East, the tradition was for children (or more likely their parents?) to carve lanterns out of turnips.  The children went “guising” – short for disguising – with their lanterns.  I hear that on the Isle of Islay, as Hallowe’en falls on the Sabbath this year, the guisers will be out tonight rather than tomorrow.  Our friends there tell us it’s a big night, involving everyone on the island.

Here in Aberdeen, the American custom of Trick-or-Treating has begun to take hold.   Large pumpkins are now for sale in the supermarkets, and many people carve jack-o-lanterns (we used to be the only ones I could see!).   People have begun to decorate their houses, and with movies and the internet – not to mention Wal-Mart here now – the decorations are beginning to look very much like ones I remember from the States.  But of course instead of decorating wooden houses with front porches, the Halloween decorations  are gracing granite houses.  Here are a few examples:

Aberdeen Halloween house no. 1

Aberdeen Halloween house no. 2 - gruesome detail

Aberdeen Halloween house no. 3

This one is interesting because it also has a Thanksgiving detail, with the dried corn.   (I wonder if the Brits will ever adopt Thanksgiving?  – I know, cheeky question!)

There are some houses in Aberdeen that are spooky all year round.  The Dafter calls them “ghost houses” and won’t walk past them if she can avoid it.  Over the years we’ve watched some of them be fixed up, which is nice to see.  But here is one that is still very definitely a ghost house:

According to the Dafter, this is Aberdeen's top ghost house - definitely haunted!

Happy day-before-Halloween!  Tomorrow, I will have a somewhat more erudite post about the Celtic traditions behind the holiday.



  1. Interesting, and very apt. I certainly went guising as a kid, and when I suggest that to my lot now, they look at me with suspicion, as though I must be so old I am probably a relic from those pagan times! Good for Islay, nice plan!
    Great house pix too…nice to see those granite hooses!

  2. Hi, thanks for commenting on my blog! Since you live in Aberdeen I have to tip you about the film Aberdeen with Stellan Skarsgaard in. It’s great!

  3. In Glasgow we also used to have carved turnips – usually carried as lanterns when one went guising. They were dreadfully difficult to carve, so I can understand the switch to pumpkins!
    The American community here in Aberdeen has long decorated for Halloween, so I suppose it’s not surprising that others have taken up the decorating tradition – it certainly brightens up the relentlessly dreary grey of Aberdeen!

  4. Dear ReturnedScot, Mali and Fifiquilter,
    Thanks to all for your comments! Re. carving turnips, we once tried it and concluded that unless you are very strong and have about 5 hours to spare, pumpkin is a much easier option. Mali, I will keep a lookout for the Stellan Skarsgaard film.

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