Wartime Rations – Day 25

toffee apliesI know it’s not Hallowe’en until tomorrow, but I thought I might get ready early and make some traditional toffee apples.  After all, apples are within my rationed fruit for this time of the year, and I have plenty of sugar left over. So even in the midst of war, there would be some cheer for the children. It turns out that the recipe is extremely easy (this would have made enough for 4 large apples); 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, half a teaspoon of vinegar.  Heat until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for about 20 minutes. When the mixture hardens when you drop a little into a bowl of cold water it’s done. Being very careful, dip the apples into the mixture and place on some greaseproof paper to set for about an hour.

But what of a traditional Hallowe’en (October 31st) or Guy Fawkes (November 5th) in wartime? An editorial in The Glasgow Herald of October 31st, 1945 (page 4) suggests that both customs disappeared during the war but had quickly resurfaced: One peacetime practise of Scottish youth has already established itself – guising. A colleague reports that on Monday night three urchins liberally bedaubed with soot, came to his door with the traditional chant of, “Please, sir, gie’s war Hallowe’en”. The black-out banished the ‘guisers’ – or galoshans -and it is pleasant to see that at least one old Scots custom has survived the war.

anne2013Here are some of Anne’s thoughts on Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes back in the 30s and 40s.

The full title was All Hallows Even(ing), the day before All Hallows’/All Saints’ Day in church, the night the dead were liable to come back to haunt you.  So Hallowe’en was the time for dressing up (to disguise yourself to avoid the ghosts)and fancy dress parties.   I’ve often wondered if guising, not guysing was the word originally used, but transformed itself into Guysing for Guy Fawkes’s 5th November.

At Hallowe’en parties there were usually a few sparklers, the sparking fireworks children loved to hold in their hands – though the sparks were hot if you didn’t hold the sparkler carefully.   Children did go knocking on people’s doors – any doors, not just their neighbours’, and the usual request was, ‘Please, missis, gie’s oor Hallowe’en’. (for 5th Nov, the plea was ‘Penny for the guy, please’, but this usually happened in the street, not at the front door, and was more common in England).

For the Hallowe’en children, Mother always had apples and handfuls of nuts or sweets to hand out: ‘Don’t give them money, their parents are often waiting round the corner to take the cash to the nearest pub’.  For these goodies the children were expected to perform in some way, maybe sing a song or recite a poem.  We were taken aback once by a girl of about 7 or 8, hand-in-hand with a much smaller brother, who said, ‘I’ll sing and he’ll harmonise’ – difficult to keep one’s face straight till they’d performed and left!

dookin 1

Dooking for apples

dookin2

Dooking for apples with a fork.

Yes we all dooked for apples, both at home and at school where we’d been told to bring two apples – in the genteel fashion of kneeling over the back of a chair and dropping a fork from your mouth in the hope that the prongs would stick in one of the apples floating in a bowl or bucket of water – there were many failures if the bucket had a wide top!  Less genteel was the practice of kneeling beside the bucket and grabbing an apple with your teeth.

scone

Scones with treacle.

I much preferred the other game when Mother dropped the ceiling pulleys halfway down, tied strings around them to ‘mouth height’ and tied on large triangular scones liberally doused with black treacle.  These we tried to bite a chunk off with our hands behind our backs – great fun;  the floor had to be washed afterwards, as did our hair, unless we did the dooking afterwards and washed out the treacle in the apple water.

The other treat was the Hallowe’en dumpling, which ranged from wealthy folks’ almost Christmas-rich puddings down to a plain one with a few sultanas, or even down to a potful of mashed potatoes – what was special were the tiny silver charms, wrapped in greaseproof paper, which had been mixed in before boiling or mashing – each ‘charm’ would tell your future: a little silver threepenny coin was the best, or there could be a baby, a horseshoe, a ring etc.  During the war it was usually mashed potatoes!

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Happy Hallowe’en

Growing up in Scotland, Hallowe’en was the most magical of nights. First would come the carving of the turnip; two triangles for its eyes, a twisted slash for a grin, a candle perched inside, and string worked through the sides to create a handle.

turnip

Party pieces perfected, we’d get dressed up in weird and wonderful homemade costumes and go out guisin’, the glow from our turnip lamps lighting our way down streets glittering with frost, to visit friends and neighbours.  (No knocking on strangers doors and definitely no calls of Trick or Treat back then.) Invited inside, we’d then have to perform our poem or song, and if our audience was pleased with the recitation, we’d be rewarded with an apple, orange, peanuts, or best of all, a silver coin… or two!

Back home, Mum would have slathered crumpets in treacle and attached them to the pulley in the kitchen.  With our hands behind our backs, the game was to see who could be first to eat them.  That would be followed – fortunately – by dookin’ for apples.  If you didn’t manage to grab an apple with your teeth, at least the treacle was washed from your face.

dookin

According to some historical accounts, it was Scottish and Irish immigrants who brought these traditions to North America. They developed over the years to the Hallowe’en celebrations kids enjoy now.

And talking of the Scots, it turns out that Robert Burns wrote a poem capturing the Hallowe’en rituals of 18th Century Scotland.  No, I’m not talking about Tam O’Shanter, but another entitled, simply, Hallowe’en, which describes the lingering pagan traditions in the Scotland of his time. Even I found myself struggling with the Scots version, so here’s an English translation.

Whatever your traditions, have a Happy Hallowe’en everyone!