Pumpkins and galoshans: Changing Halloween traditions


They come in varieties called snowman and goosebumps, in colours of green and orange, where once the turnip lantern lit Scottish children's way as they went out guising, the pumpkin is now firmly part of the changing traditions of Halloween.

"They love heat, they love a lot of water, a lot of feed, they like being dry, they don't like being rained on all summer, especially when they're flowering," says John Laird who grows pumpkins at Cairnie Fruit Farm just outside Cupar in Fife.

This year they've grown roughly 2,500 pumpkins which is not bad given the weather.

"This year's been a real challenge," he continues "if it wasn't for our tunnels that we grow them in, I don't think we would have had a crop at all."

He says he began growing pumpkins in 2000 because of his American wife who had gown up with them as a Halloween staple. They now run a pumpkin festival. So does he have any nostalgia for the humble turnip?

"It is a little sad," he agrees.

"I think it was a cruel twist that our parents made us carve a turnip back then. It took a long time."

The pumpkin he argues is so much easier and allows more creativity in the carving.

"So roll on the times, and I think it's nice to move on and do something different."

On the opposite side of the country in Greenock, the Galoshans Festival is underway. It brings international and home-grown artists to the town, as well as a programme of community events.

The word has its roots in the galoshan plays performed in parts of Scotland at this time of year, when the boundary between the everyday world and the supernatural one was supposed to be thin.

"When I was a child I would go out in galoshans," remembers Inverclyde Council's education and community convener Councillor Terry Loughran.

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"Guising in my version would be when I go out and knock on a door to put on my performance, so the galoshans would be me putting on my disguise which makes it easier for me to connect with the spooky world on the other side."

He admits that there has been some dilution of the use of the word as children get more from films, but he argues there is still a strong tradition supported by parents in the town.

He continues: "It's nice in a sense to be bilingual, to embrace other people's cultures, but also to treasure, to think what's good about the culture that we have within our own community and within the broader Scotland and sitting in the middle of that at this time of year we have going out in galoshans - getting dressed up for Halloween."

The roots of Halloween are thought to be in one of four ancient Celtic feast days, marking the coming of winter.

"Tradition is a funny thing, it's not a static thing," says Dr Lizanne Henderson of Glasgow University.

As a child she went back and forth between Canada and Scotland and so saw Halloween traditions from both sides of the Atlantic.

"You should never think of a tradition as something that's sort of written in stone that it never changes and Halloween is no exception," she says.

"There's a carnival aspect to Halloween that is why it's so appealing.

"It's a time when people can do things that are out of the ordinary, they can behave in ways that they wouldn't ordinarily behave and that's part of its appeal."

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