We know that there are two schools of thought when it comes to Halloween.  Some of you probably think that it’s just an excuse for kids to come round and pester you for sweets.  Others just think it’s a bit of fun.

Of course, trick or treating is a relatively new idea when it comes to celebrating Halloween.  Its roots go back a very long way.  All Hallows Day is celebrated in the Christian church on 1 November so Halloween was originally known as All Hallows Eve.  However, Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when pagans celebrated the end of the harvest and the start of winter.  Some of the pagan traditions were still going in 1785 when Robert Burns wrote ‘Halloween’.

Here are some of our favourite ways to celebrate.

Read some Burns

If you’re already a fan of ghost stories you probably have a few favourites to share at Halloween.  We think you could do a lot worse than to read a bit of Robert Burns.  ‘Halloween’ is one of his lesser known poems but has some interesting references to the old pagan traditions.

‘Tam O’Shanter’ is far more famous and tells the cautionary tale of Tam, who stayed in the pub after Ayr market and met Old Nick and a crowd of witches on the way home.  The story goes that Rabbie Burns read some old Ayrshire ghost stories as inspiration for the poem.  We definitely think it’s worth reading on a dark and spooky night.

Carve a neep lantern

If you want to carve out a pumpkin lantern and make a pie, that’s fine with us.  But we’ve heard that before pumpkins arrived from America the lanterns used to be made out of turnips.  We’d love to see the results if you give it a go.

Lighting fires was also a popular tradition as it was thought to keep the evil spirits away.  We think we’ll save that one for bonfire night.

Dookin’ for apples

This is a great game, especially if you have children visiting on Halloween.  Trying to catch an apple bobbing around in water using just their teeth can keep them occupied for ages.  If you’d rather not get your floor soaking wet you can always hang them up with string.

We’ve also heard of an interesting variation where you dip a scone in treacle and hang that up.  It sounds a bit messy to us.

Eat a sausage roll

Believe it or not, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 made it illegal to eat pork on Halloween.  The reasons for that are a bit vague, but the act was only repealed in the 1950s.  It seems only right to celebrate with a sausage roll or a pork pie.

Get dressed up for dinner

Whether you approve of trick or treating or not, getting dressed up in a spooky costume is a tradition that goes back a long way.  The ancient Celts believed that the veil between the living and the dead was at its’ thinnest on Halloween, allowing spirits to come and wander among us.  They used to dress small children as evil spirits so that they would blend in and stay safe.

Of course, if evil spirits could roam around, that meant the good ones could too.  It was common to set a place at table for any departed loved ones or to leave offerings of food and drink.  Even if you don’t go that far, we love the idea of remembering the ones who are no longer with us at Halloween.

What are your favourite traditions?  Let us know!