Scotlands History

Hallowe'en

Robert Burns wrote a poem called ‘Hallowe’en’ that was first published in 1786. It describes Hallowe’en divination and fortune telling customs from Burns’s native Ayrshire. Robert Burns’s love of stories of ghosts and witches led to his famous poem ‘Tam O’ Shanter’.

Scots that emigrated to America took their Hallowe’en customs and traditions across the Atlantic. Hallowe'en became hugely popular in America.

More than 120 years later, in the early 20th century, American Hallowe'en cards showed Scots, tartans, thistles and even some of the Hallowe’en customs that Robert Burns described in his poem.

Scots carved turnip lanterns - in America they carved pumpkins. Scots children went guising, dooked for apples and celebrated Mischief Night by stealing gates and playing pranks with kail cabbages. In America they started ‘trick or treat’.

Eventually Hallowe'en came full circle with pumpkins and trick-or-treat masks and costumes on sale in Scotland. Today, Hallowe'en is massive on both sides of the Atlantic but most people don’t realise that the festival has its origins in Scotland.

Thousands celebrate Hallowe'en each year at the New York Halloween Parade in the Big Apple and the Samhuinn Festival on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

  • Old black and white photo of a small girl in a white dress sitting very seriously beside a carved pumpkin lantern

Click on the image to view a larger version.

An old illustration of a pumpkin lantern wearing a tartan tammy

Robert Burns and Hallowe'en

Find out about the Hallowe'en customs that Scots took with them around the world.