Carving Pumpkins in Ireland

Our flat is now decorated for Halloween.

I wish I could stick some pictures up here, but the upload pictures function on my blog isn’t currently working. Sorry, folks!

Here in Ireland, the celebrating of Halloween is something entirely different to what I grew up with in the states. For starters, most folks here in the midlands have NEVER carved a pumpkin. The first year we arrived, we looked in vain for pumpkins. When we asked about it, people scowled and shook their heads,

“That’s an awful American thing to do, we wouldn’t do that here.”

Funny enough, the last two years have seen the local shops filled with pumpkins. The first year they were close to €10 each. Last year it was €4-7. This year they have appeared in the shops for as low as €2! Hooray!

One thing I have discovered: jack-o-lanterns are an Irish tradition. It’s just that pumpkins are not.

While my friends here in the midlands seem to think that the whole mutilating of vegetables on this occasion to turn them into laterns is an entirely american thing, it would seem that, from what I’ve read, it did start in Ireland. I’ve heard a couple of versions of the story behind the Jack-o-lantern at this stage, but they all involve a fella called Jack and his dealings with the devil. Eventually a lantern is needed and Jack makes one out of a turnip and a piece of coal.

That’s right, it was turnips the Irish used to carve, not pumpkins.

Can you imagine? You ever had a turnip? Those things would be a serious bitch to carve.

Anyway, the custom of gutting any vegetable for luminent purposes at this time of year has been mostly lost in Ireland and it would seem to have occurred just over the last century. I suppose during all the slaughter, famines and rampant expatriation that occured here in the last 150 years, a certain number of Irish customs have died out. Thankfully, their descendents in the states have kept some alive (albeit altered). I imagine after carving turnips for generations the recently arrived Irish in America looked around at all the pumpkins and said,

“What have we been AT? Look at the bloody SIZE of THESE yokes! Ma, throw them turnips away, these massive orange-y lads are the way forward!!”

It is my goal this year to carve a turnip. You read it here first. The carving party is next Friday.

You have been warned.