All-Hallows Eve originated in Scotland and Ireland as a full day in which spirits walk abroad — it originally lasted from sundown on October 31 until sundown on November 1 (All Souls Day). It has obviously evolved much since the 17th century, when ghouls went from door to door, begging for “soul cakes.”Robert Burns, the great Scottish poet of the 18th century, recorded some of the best traditions of Halloween, including this one:
It seems that young couples would through nuts in the fire, and the course of their courtship would be predicted by whether the nuts sat quietly together or jumped apart.
The auld Guidewife’s weel-hoordet nits
Are round an’ rounded divided,
An’ monie lads and lasses fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle, couthie, side by side,
An’ burn thegither trimly;
Some, start awa, wi’ saucy pride,
An’ jump out owre the chimlie
Fu’ high that night.