So, it's our third autumn in Scotland. Are autumn celebrations and traditions different here versus in the USA? Yes and no. Here's what I've noticed:
Americans call it fall, the British call it autumn. Doesn't it sound posh?
Cooked pumpkins aren't used for sweets, they're used for savory foods. Like soups... Aaron wowed his coworkers with pumpkin cookies last year, which reminds me to make some more for them this year. We of course prefer to use our pumpkin for sweet foods, but we're definitely in the minority. It has encouraged me to consider making a pumpkin soup, but maybe I'll do that next year. ;)
While on the topic of pumpkins, I've only found three pumpkin patches in Scotland. I'm sure there have to be more, but that's it. Three. And they're all relatively new, within the past 3-4 years of being started. And canned pumpkin can be difficult to find, although I now have a couple of sources for it. Meanwhile, I'm hoarding pumpkin cans like the apocalypse is coming.
Carve a pumpkin? Nah, the Scots will carve a turnip instead. This is one tradition we haven't tried because, I just can't get into scary turnip faces. Pumpkins are really just more photogenic too and definitely easier to carve! The reason Americans carve pumpkins is because of their Scottish and Irish ancestors who discovered that the pumpkin was much easier to carve. Otherwise, everyone would be carving some funky turnips!
They don't pick apples here. No picturesque apple orchards family photos. The apples in the stores here are very tasty though and we can find ones locally if we look hard enough. Apparently, pick-your-own-apples is an American thing.
I know it's early to even think about Black Friday, but that's becoming a bigger tradition here as well. Lots of shops have sales that day, which I find ironic because it seems to be waning in the States. Hopefully this year, I'll have most of my Christmas shopping done by then anyhow, so I can avoid the crowds.
Bonfires are popular on both sides of the Atlantic, although here they have a far more sinister past. Fires were a traditional celebration on Samhaim (the Gaelic celebration marking the end of the harvest season and traditionally held on 31 October.) That would be the evening to burn the witch and if no witches were handy, torches were marched around the fields to ward off evil spirits. We don't see many bonfires until Guy Fawkes Day now, when bonfires are traditionally lit to burn Guy Fawkes in effigy.
I honestly don't know how big of a deal Halloween is. I see lots of costumes so I think people go trick-or-treating/parties, etc, but we've never done anything like that. If anything, that is the one area that is most like America with the commercialization aspect. There is Halloween stuff in the stores, but we've never had trick-or-treaters and Georgie really isn't old enough to participate in anything like that so I guess we'll wait a bit to find out more info about that!
Halloween was definitely a time for the superstitious here in Scotland. Apples would be peeled and the peelings would be thrown over your shoulder and whatever initial came up would be the initial of your intended. Even potatoes would tell your fortune. A bowl of mashed potatoes would have various charms added in, and whatever charms you got would tell your fortune. Another foodie fortune involved nuts. According to sources: Each nut would be given the name of a likely suitor before being laid on the fire. How the nuts reacted to the heat would determine the course of the courtship. Two were placed on a live peat, one representing a boy and the other a girl. If the two stayed put on the peat as it burned, a happy marriage was signalled. If one rolled away, it suggested there would be no union. Oh, and apple bobbing that you did at school parties? That's a tradition came from here as in the 1800s and early 1900s young women would try to grab an apple with the name of their supposed suitor etched into the skin.
Like America, autumn is a time for hot drinks, cozy sweaters, and some brisk nights out and about with friends enjoying a bonfire. The leaves change color here, mostly yellows and a few reds and orange. We're finding our own new traditions influenced by Scottish ones and keeping our favorite American traditions as we can. That means celebrating Thanksgiving with friends, watching the fireworks on Guy Fawkes night, and looking up different recipes for pumpkin. And of course, we're pretty thankful to be carving our pumpkins instead of turnips. :) Enjoy these last couple of days of October!