I wish I could get a turnip and make a proper Halloween lantern. The traditional Celtic festival has been Americanised with pumpkin culture reverse-exported back to Europe and turnips falling by the wayside. Turnip lanterns are smaller but much cooler and more sinister than pumpkins. I don’t think Germs are very familiar with them; maybe they were never traditionally eaten here or don’t suit the climate? As far as I know, there is no similarly aincent end of harvest festival here -there is Oktoberfest of course but that’s a bit different. I believe that early christians co-opted halloween (Samhain) from the pagans and stuck a holy day on it instead.
Halloween Bonfires: When I was a kid we used to “borrow” our dad’s little carpentry saws and campfire hatchets and scour the neighbourhood woods, searching for likely trees, i.e. big enough to impress but small enough for a gang of kids put a rope around and drag to the pyre. We would cut down the best trees for miles around and build a huge bonfire in a local field. If our parents had only known, we were lucky we never killed ourselves. One afternoon, after three days work, we finally finished cutting all the way through a large beech tree –but it would not fall, it’s branches were caught. So we decided to try to push it over. It fell allright -vertically; the trunk slipped off it’s stump and pile-drived deep into the earth -missing my foot by about 2″. We ended up having to cut the tree into segments to drag it back. Not a bad days work for a bunch of 11 year olds.
Anyway, on the night itself, after going door to door begging for apples and nuts (trick or treat had yet to arrive on these shores) we would light the bonfire and set off rockets and bangers. All the adults would invariably show up and act as if it was their fire and try to boss us about. Nowdays however, it’s all official, neatly stacked shipping pallets and supervised by the fire brigade. Somehow a lot of the fun has been organised out of it -a bit like Carnival perhaps?
A proper Irish Haloween bonfire.
In honour of the season, a bat video.
Here are some good pumpkin carving sites with tutorials: