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Oidhche nan Cleas: Mischief Night

Old/New Traditions

Halloween has always been a big deal in our house. As a kid I loved the excitement of dressing up and walking around after dark, the familiar surroundings of your home village transformed and othered by the crackle of excitement in the air and the ghosts and witches around every corner! Although I was always a little afraid of the dark (I still am!) going guising in a group meant we felt invincible…and besides which we knew there were sweeties waiting if we could remember the words to the song! 

Guising. The silver princess dress modelled here by my youngest sister was made by my mum for me as a Cinderella dress – reversible with rags on the other side! Still remember running to the bathrooms at Inversnaid PS to change from rags to riches halfway through our join school Halloween party! All of these costumes made with things we had at home.

Guising with my brothers and sisters are some of my happiest childhood memories. Looking back, I think this was partly because it was one of the few times we would go round to everyone else’s house in the village and chat, I remember feeling a sense of belonging on nights like these. Maybe my warm memories of Halloween have influenced them but the tradition of Halloween excitement is kept alive and well by the children, they often say it’s better than Christmas!

As they grew we established new Halloween traditions. The large village we lived in was too big to go to everyone’s house and there were plenty of houses where we’d never met or spoken to the folks who lived there, but we had a guising route of friends and neighbours and always several Halloween parties so the guising bags were always full! The kids loved the parties and the guising but they loved the planning and making of costumes and getting dressed and sharing spooky stories and songs just as much. We lived in Inverclyde where guising is called goin’ galoshans and is a really big deal…there’s even a local festival, the Galoshans Festival, dedicated to spooky fun and frolics so I knew we’d need to find ourselves some new Halloween traditions when we moved to Skye.

Listening to some of Annie Arnott’s songs on Tobar an Dualchais I stumbled across Track 104457 where she talks to Alan Bruford about getting dressed up and going over to the neighbours houses and also about playing tricks on folk at Halloween. Here she’s talking about throwing a piece of turf through the chimney hole in the old houses, something we couldn’t do now but in Track 104459 she talks about other tricks they’d play, tricks such as moving gates, carts etc or even throwing folk in the loch!

Well, here was a tradition I knew they’d enjoy! As it turns out we had invites to 2 great parties this Halloween and got dressed up and went guising to the neighbours but it was Oidhche nan Cleas or Mischief Night that was the highlight. Dressed up in masks and capes we headed out to the muir behind the house for a game of manhunt (spooky tig!) with the neighbours where everyone tried to creep up on each other and scare folk with spooky singing or whispers! I was caught out with vinegar in my glass of water, knocking on the windows and chilli powder sweeties tho I’m glad to say all the gates stayed where they should have…maybe they’re just too heavy for the children to lift yet…I’ll have to be prepared for it next year! Turns out that sometimes the old/new traditions are the best!

Waiting for it to get dark…
Heading out to the muir…homemade spooky costumes and LOTS of facepaint!
Masks and darkness. Dear reader, I screamed!

How do you celebrate Halloween?  Share some of your spooky stories in the comments below.

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