Glasgow, October 11
My Dear Canadians,
How are all our Scottish friends in Montreal doing? Now, don’t say- Doing everybody! That wheeze is too old. Are they looking forward to Halloween? Have you tattie parties over there? Do you hunt amongst the beetled spuds for the elusive ring, and button, and dolly? If not, why not? It is great fun, especially to the young folks.
With your climate, I daresay it might not be expedient to dook for apples in a tube. Even here we have practically given over that heroic game—which meant wet shoulders and too often a nasty cold. We compromise now by leaning over the back of a chair and trying to spear the floating fruit with a dinner fork dropped from the mouth.
The occasion has lost some of its charm here. We townsfolk can’t go out to the burn at the foot of the field, and, calling upon our beloved, see her or his face mirrored on the moonlit surface of the stream. The old freits are nearly all done away with. You can’t get people to believe in them today: it is “superstitious nonsense!” Heigho, I wish we had been left some of our nonsense!
Our new style of celebrating the feast of All Hallow’s Eve is a supper and dance. The mashed potatoes are brought forward in a pudding basin, and each guest makes a dig with a large spoon. Happy is the lass who finds the ring in her portion, because it means that she will be married before the next Halloween, and doleful is the lad who gets the button as it implies a long bachelorhood.
Of course, no tricks are played with that pudding basin! Oh, no! certainly not! Still it is very curious that an engaged maid usually gets the ring, a confirmed bachelor the button, and a latterly married lady or gentleman the little china doll.
Sometimes a piece of silver money is inserted in the tattle mass. I notice that this prize always goes either to a very young person or to a very old one who is suspected of being miserly. I don’t know how these things happen so appropriately. Once I asked a giver of the feast how it was done, and was rewarded with a stony stare.
But the dance is the thing! None of your fal-la! Merry widows or Military steps! No! a set or two of quadrilles or lancery, with a plain waltz, a polka, and a Highland schottische to hooch in! and then there will be romping, singing, and talking games, such as “The good old Duke of York”, “The wee Malony Man”, and “I love my love.” All this in the parlor of a three or four roomed house. The young men have carried the big table away and laid it on a bed in the next apartment, and they have shifted the piano into a corner to make way for the dancers. The sideboard is dragged into the hall and the sofa is upended and placed beside it, like some giant “policeman” set there to keep watch over the wandered furniture.
The guidman and guidwife of the house are treated with the most ceremonious respect, but are bumped about so much that in the end they seek refuge in the kitchen, where they listen nervously to the clatter of the ornaments knocked off the mantelpiece in the dancing-room. It is a young folks play, and they know; but they are not unhappy, and the old lady looks in the old man’s eyes, and they both break into smiles as they see that each other recalls some such evening long ago.