If you’re looking to celebrate a traditional Halloween, then better start carving out those turnips! With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it might be interesting to start a little series on Halloween and the traditions behind it. Besides, why do we celebrate Halloween, anyway? Well, Halloween has its origins as a Chrisitan festival. And pumpkin carving? Well, it has its roots in… turnips. Yep, traditional carved turnips! And they’re enough to give you nightmares… for weeks!
Can you even imagine walking up to someone’s house, by the light of your flickering candlelight, only to discover a turnip staring right back at you! A trick if ever I did see one…
The practice of carving turnips!
Turnip carving finds its roots in Irish folklore. The turnips are named after a malicious man named Jack who did a deal with the devil and lost. As a result, Jack ended up left to wander the Earth, locked out of heaven, barred from hell. To taunt Jack even further, Satan handed Jack an eternal
To taunt Jack even further, Satan handed Jack an eternal ember to guide him on his way. Jack carved a turnip and placed the ember inside, using it to lure tired travellers into grave dangers in swampy areas.
In the 19th century, Irish immigrants took the tradition of turnip carving with them to the USA where pumpkins were soon discovered. Not only were they more aesthetically pleasing, they also happened to be a lot easier to carve. The rest is history!
Think the turnips above looked innocent? Think again! Traditional carved turnips are absolutely terrifying…
The turnip below comes from the collections of the Museum of Country Life in Ireland. Open since 2001 and situated in Turlough Village, it also happens to be the only national museum outside of Dublin.
A modern carving of a traditional carved turnip.