One of the best-known symbols of Halloween is the turnip or pumpkin lantern. In Scotland, what are called turnips are what we call swedes.
No-one really knows when the tradition of making these lanterns began, but it is believed that their origins go back for thousands of years.
It is known that the ancient Celts regarded the human head as a charm against evil. Lanterns, carved in the form of heads were probably used by the Celtic Druids at their special Festival of the Dead as a guard against evil spirits and to welcome the souls of loved ones as they revisited at that time.
It is widely believed that in much later times the face-lanterns were meant to frighten away any witches who might ride by at Halloween on their way back from their meeting with the Devil.
In ancient times the apple was thought of as a holy or magical fruit.
A Norse legend tells of how the gods kept their health and youth by eating the apples from the garden of Asgard, their home in the sky.
The Celt believed in a paradise where apple trees carried fragrant blossom and ripe fruit at one and same time.
A well-known Halloween game is ducking or bobbing for apples, where some apples are floated in a large tub or bowl of water and players take it in turns to try to pick up and apple from the water using only their teeth.
In a lesser known Halloween game, if young people wanted to find out their fortune in love each person would tie an apple on a piece of string and spin it round and round. The one whose apple flew off first would be the first to marry. Anyone whose apple did not fly off would remain unwed.
Also, apple pips were used as love signs. When a girl had two men to choose from she would get two pips, call each one after the two men, then stick the pips on her cheek. The pip which fell off first was the man she should reject!
Another game was to put an apple pip on the bars of a fire. If the pip burst with a pop it meant a girls boyfriend would be true but if it burned slowly he would not be faithful!
Apples are very good to eat at this time of year as they have just been harvested from the trees.
TRICK OR TREAT
Until a hundred or so years ago, another name for Halloween, in many parts of Britain, was Mischief Night. Because witches and ghosts were supposed to be around then, and strange, unearthly things were likely to happen, children and young people would use this as an excuse to play tricks and practical jokes on people.
November 2nd, the day after All Saints Day, is called All Souls Day, a day set aside by the Church for people to remember the dead and pray for their souls. In many villages in Britain, it became the custom for poor people to go round collecting gifts of money or food. In return they would say extra prayers for the souls of loved ones who had died. In time this custom became that small groups of people would dress up and parade through the streets singing a soul song. The song asked for gifts, including cakes called soul cakes, baked specially.
Gradually this custom died out, but children carried it on by calling from door to door hoping for a cake or sweet in return for a soul song.
Nowadays, children and young people dress up and go from door to door hoping for sweets or other treats, including money, and when they don't get anything they often play a trick on the unwilling neighbours.