When we lived in Scotland, we would dress up and go Guising on Hallowe’en.

Guising has the same underlying principal as Trick or Treating – you dress up and tour the neighbourhood in search of goodies – but you have to work much harder for your sweets. Each person is expected to do a party piece at every house to earn their reward. You can sing a song, or say a poem or tell a few jokes, but you have to do something.

My Guising group usually consisted of me, two sisters (Billie and Katie) and four other kids from the neighbourhood (Nicky, Gillian, Susie and Natalie). So that’s 7 kids. We’d start off full of enthusiasm to perform our repertoire, but as the evening wore on, the pressing need was to complete the sweep of all the houses in range.

In order to maximise our candy intake, we needed to minimise the time wasted in songs, poems and jokes. Billie and I would double-up and recite the same poem in unison. We’d ask Katie and Susie to sing only one verse of their songs. We’d press Nicky to tell only one or two of his witty jokes, rather than the full 15 he had prepared. Time was short, and the chocolate rewards loomed large.

The little old lady across the street always got the full treatment though. She piled on the goodies like no one else. No fun-size chocolate bars from her, oh no! She doled out full-size Mars bars, Bountys, Kit-Kats and Twixes, and a tangerine each and a handful of sucky sweets for the road.

Hallowe’en was the only night of the year we ever saw this lady. She didn’t have young kids, she didn’t walk a dog, she didn’t work in her garden, and she never sat outside and read in the summer. This made us all a bit wary of her. It took me years to fully understand that she was agoraphobic, and that for her, the only way to meet the neighbourhood kids was to have them come into her home. The only night we ever had a reason to go to her house was at Hallowe’en. At least we put on a good show.

Our neighbourhood was quite small, and we were allowed to tour unchaperoned on the provision that we stayed on the main streets, and returned home at the assigned time.

One year, not content with our loot, our little Guising troop decided that we should put our watches back by half an hour, thus gaining 30 more minutes in the pursuit of sweeties. The extra time allowed us to sweep through the distant houses at the top of the neighbourhood not often visited, and reap the rich chocolatey benefits.

We scurried home afterwards, pleased with the extra haul, rehearsing our indignant excuses that our watches were ‘slow’. Needless to say, those excuses didn’t fly with the parents. Chocolate was confiscated. Tears were shed. Lessons about lying to parents were learned. We didn’t try that tactic again.

Hallowe’en is not a big event in Singapore – it is just used as a sales and marketing gimmick by Pubs and Clubs to pull in punters with booze promos and costume competitions. That is not what Hallowe’en should be about.

Hallowe’en is about freezing dark wintry nights and scratchy costumes, silly poems and bad jokes. It’s tangerines and jack o’lanterns. It’s chocolates and sweeties. It’s stomachaches and sticky fingers. It’s ghost stories and scary movies.

Happy Hallowe’en to you!

2 thoughts on “Guising

  1. What I would really like to know is where the custom came from. Is it the same as trick-or-treating? A bribe to stop evil spirits attacking your home, family and livelihood? Or is it something else?

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