Monday, 31 October 2011

Halloween - turnip carving vs. pumpkin carving

I've never celebrated Halloween.  Growing up in Africa, Halloween didn't mean anything.

This year, however, I wanted to join in the fun and try my hand at carving a jack o'lantern out of a pumpkin.  When I mentioned this to my boyfriend he said that he was only going to carve a turnip because that's what they did up north (of England).  I'm afraid to say that I laughed at him.  I assumed that the only reason they carved turnips was poverty because turnips are so much cheaper than pumpkins.

Well, it turns out that the last laugh was on me.  It turns out that the carving of turnips for Halloween or All Saints Eve is a very ancient Celtic tradition dating back pre Christ. According to Wikipedia, Samhain was the final harvest of the Celtic year, falling on October 31st.  

It was believed that at Samhain, the wall between the living and the spiritual world was very thin, allowing evil spirits to cross into the world of the living.  Faces were carved out of turnips and lit with embers from the fire to confuse the evil spirits and prevent them from entering the dwelling.

Image is from Wikipedia.  This shows a traditional Irish carved turnip from the Museum of Country Life in Ireland.

With the arrival of Christianity, Samhain became All Hallows Eve but many of the traditions remained.  When the Irish settlers went to north America, they took their traditions with them but turnips weren't, as yet, readily available so they choose the next best thing - pumpkins, which grew locally.  Pumpkins are bigger and far, far easier to carve so began the tradition of pumpkin carving. 

Anyway, here are our efforts...

I was rather pleased with the results.  A nice mixture of old and new, I felt.

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