Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve) is associated with symbols like the jack-o'-lantern. But did you know that these lanterns were first carved from a turnip or a rutabaga?

A 1970's collection of Scottish Halloween traditions describes the carving of a turnip lantern like this:

"To make a lantern, choose a large round turnip. From the top, cut off a thick slice--about a quarter of the whole--and scoop out the inside, preferably with a spoon, taking care not to break the skin.
The 'shell' should be as this as possible, but a stump must be left at the bottom and hollowed out to serve as a socket. Now take a sharp pen-knife and carve on the turnip a man-in-the-moon face, a skull and cross-bones, or other device. Then get a candle, plain or coloured as desired, and set firmly in the socket. Make two holes near the top, one at each side of the handle. It should be long enough to prevent any risk of burning one's hand. Alternatively, the lantern may be suspended from a forked stick.
When the lantern is lit, there is a soft, luminous glow, and the device you have carved stands out clearly. There is room here for considerable artistry."

The excerpt above - and many other intriguing traditions - can be found in The Folklore of World Holidays (REF 398.2 MAC).

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