History of Halloween (3)

It started with a turnip

As we have seen: one origin of Halloween is Samhain, the feast of the Celts and also Gaelic People.
The Celts and the Gaels used to live on the British Islands, especially in Scotland and in Ireland.

Traditionally they carved turnips  and put them into their windows.
Ever carved a turnip?
A German friend recently told me, that her family did so when she was a child down in the 60s.
I just can’t imagine.

By the moment I have such a turnip in my fridge. No not for a Halloween lantern, just for a nice stew, but I am hesitating to cut it, because it is such a hard work.

I guess you are familiar with the immigrations of the 19th century.
Especially Irish people immigrated due to mass starvation to the USA.
And like every immigrant they brought their traditions with them.

One was the lantern which was used to ward off evil spirits.

In the USA turnip seemed not to be that ready at hand as the turnip has been in Ireland.
But pumpkins have been everywhere.

So they started to use the pumpkin instead of the turnip.
It was also easier to carve than the turnip.
And it was much bigger.

It is recorded that Americans carved pumpkins since 1837.
At that time the big pumpkin was a symbol for a successful harvest in fall.

Not before the end of the 19th century the carved pumpkin became connected with Halloween.

This is very interesting to me. Usually we have the idea that such a tradition is a long term tradition. But when you do some research you will find out that it is just a tradition for about 150 years now.


I found a bit on the myth of “Jack-o’-lantern”.
I love old myths and legends.

Stingy Jack was a lazy but shrewd farmer.
He uses a cross to trap the Devil.

On of the myths says that Jack tricked the Devil by making him climbing an apple tree.
Once the Devil was on the tree, Jack placed crosses around the trunk of the tree.
Others say that he had carved a cross into the bark.

No matter which method Jack used, the result was: the Devil couldn’t get down anymore.
You can imagine, that the Devil was not amused.

The Devil wanted to go down and so Jack made a deal with him. The Devil was allowed to go down after he had promised never to take Jack’s soul.
Jack was kind of mischief.
So when he died one day, his soul went to heaven. Because of his sinful life, St. Peter didn’t open the gates of heaven for Jack.
And hell?
No way for Jack to go to hell, since the Devil has promised never to take his soul.

A poor soul with no place to go.
So Jack had to start an endless wandering. He couldn’t see where to go. He had no light.
The Devil tossed him an ember that would never burn out. It was from the flames of hell.
So Jack carved a turnip and put the ember inside.
He wanders the Earth for ever seeking for a resting place.
While he has his turnip lantern with him, he is known as “Jack of the Lantern”.

Do you know other stories or myths of Halloween
Tomorrow I am going to share some superstitions with you

Picture: Parium

Part 1  – Part 2


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5 thoughts on “History of Halloween (3)

  1. Pingback: History of Halloween (6) « Helz-Design

  2. Pingback: History of Halloween (5) « Helz-Design

  3. Pingback: History of Halloween (4) « Helz-Design

  4. I love the legend of Jack.

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