Tuesday 11 December 2018

'Ghost turnips': how Celtic roots inspired pumpkin carving

The practice of placing lit, carved pumpkins in windows on Halloween night stems from the tradition of placing carved ‘ghost turnips’ that were used as scary lanterns on the eve of the festival of Samhain, or the official start of winter, on November 1
The practice of placing lit, carved pumpkins in windows on Halloween night stems from the tradition of placing carved ‘ghost turnips’ that were used as scary lanterns on the eve of the festival of Samhain, or the official start of winter, on November 1
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

A special exhibit showcasing how our ancient Celtic ancestors were the originators of modern Halloween traditions has been put on display by the National Museum of Ireland.

Its Museum of Country Life in Castlebar, Co Mayo, is encouraging visitors to see its Samhain exhibit, which traces the Celtic roots of Halloween.

The practice of placing lit, carved pumpkins in windows on Halloween night stems from the tradition of placing carved 'ghost turnips' that were used as scary lanterns on the eve of the festival of Samhain, or the official start of winter, on November 1.

October 31 was traditionally associated with paying homage to the dead and protecting the living.

The festival also featured 'guising' in which men or children in disguise went door-to-door to frighten their neighbours while providing entertainment to secure a treat.

It was a precursor of the modern practice of 'trick or treat'.

Other traditions that survive today include eating báirín breac, or barmbrack, the traditional Sanhaim cake to which a ring (signifying marriage) or a thimble or button for the unlucky in love was inserted to determine the fate of whoever ate the doctored slice.

Irish Independent

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