Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween in Scotland, articles quiz

Read about Halloween in Scotland and at the same time test your use of articles.

Select the appropriate article for each gap. For zero articles select '(-)'


Here in Poland, and I think also in France, Halloween is largely seen as American tradition. But people in Scotland know different. Hallowe'en, to use its original spelling, is apparently Scottish word, a contraction of All Hallows Even, that is to say, eve of All Saints Day (November 1st). But many Halloween traditions seem to go back to Celtic autumn festival of Samhain. It was no doubt yet another example, like Christmas, of early Christian church intelligently adapting older pagan celebrations to the needs of new religion. But in this case older pagan practices seem to have prevailed, and the celebration has lost most of its Christian religious significance.

Taken to United States by immigrants from Ireland , Scotland and to a lesser extent England, these customs were further developed with new symbols being added, such as pumpkins. Then along came Hollywood and resulting commercialisation of Halloween, now seen by shopkeepers everywhere as a great opportunity to make few extra bucks.



When I was young, Halloween was much smaller affair than now. Children would carve lanterns with scary faces not from pumpkins but from neeps, the Scottish word for orange coloured variety of turnip called swedes elsewhere. On evening itself the children used to disguise themselves and go from house to house 'guising', and still do to this day. Guising is slightly different from American tradition of 'trick or treat', as in Scotland each child is supposed to do 'party piece' before being given their sweets. This typically involves singing song, telling joke or reciting poem. And talking of poems, Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, published poem called Hallowe'en way back in 1786.



Typical party games involve hanging up scones or pieces of toast spread with treacle, sweet black sticky substance made from sugar cane. The idea is that children eat these without using their hands, which of course results in some very dirty faces. This is followed by 'dooking' for apples (known as bobbing or dunking elsewhere). A large tub is filled with water and apples. You have to get apples out using only your teeth. According to Scotsman newspaper some schools are stopping this practice, as it is seen as unhygienic, or the children use forks instead of their teeth. One headteacher said (of dooking with forks) 'There is quite a lot of skill involved and you don't get half as wet'. But getting wet is half the fun! Moreover newspaper went on to quote bacteriologist as saying "It is sort of unhygienic, but no more unhygienic than breathing air".

On islands of North-West Scotland there is an additional custom - that anything that is 'moveable' may be moved. This includes gates if they can be taken off their hinges (and occasionally even if they can't). shop signs mysteriously appear in fields, small boats somehow wander onto paths. These goings-on are traditionally blamed on older children, but real culprits are usually young adults.


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