English heritage calls on revellers to re-embrace the original Irish jack-o’-lantern after heavy rain reduces pumpkin supply
Halloween trick-or-treaters may find carved turnips awaiting them on doorsteps this weekend, after wet weather significantly reduced the supply of pumpkins.
English Heritage is decorating its sites with turnips for the autumn celebration, and has called on revellers to join it in revisiting the original story of Halloween and re-embracing the original “humble” carved root.
Long before the pumpkin became the Halloween decoration of choice, people across the Britain carved ghoulish faces into turnips and placed them near doorways to frighten away evils spirits, the charity said.
The practice originated from an Irish folk tale about a man named Jack who, after trying to trick the devil, was cursed to roam the earth with only a burning coal held inside a hollowed-out turnip.
During the 19th century, however, immigrants to America who took the Halloween tradition with them discovered that pumpkins, which grew there, were easier to carve.
As a result pumpkins became the established tradition, while using a turnip to depict the original jack-o’-lantern was forgotten.
Dr Michael Carter, an English Heritage historian, said: “From carved pumpkins to trick or treating, many of the traditions associated with Halloween today come from early European folklore, rather than simply being American inventions.”
This year English Heritage would be celebrating the original tradition with an “array of carved turnips at Dover Castle”.
Yields of pumpkin, a squash sown around April and May and harvested in the UK in September and October, may suffer if poorly drained soils become waterlogged after heavy rain, but also if there is not enough rain or if temperatures fall too low.
“I don’t think turnips are going to replace pumpkins. They are more difficult to carve, but hopefully people will remember the turnip and all our other rich traditions this Halloween,” Carter said.
This article was written by Aisha Gani, for theguardian.com on Monday 26th October 2015 11.20 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010