I am still on my Halloween high. I may not be able to create a costume for a little kid to parade around in but I can still turn a pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern. Also known as a Jack-o’-the-Lantern, in this country it’s a carved pumpkin but traditionally a swede or a turnip was used. This tradition of carving a “lantern” started in Ireland. The turnips were carved on All-Hallow’s-Eve and left on the door step to ward off evil spirits. It was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus, Will-o’-the-Wisp or jack-o’-lantern. An offering or, as we now know it, a “treat” would also be commonly left, as it was feared if you didn’t, the demons and spirits would fiddle with property or live stock (play a “trick”). In Celtic mythology Oct 31st is called Samhain, when the boundary between the living and the dead was very thin. In order to keep the spirits in their place, Celts would dress up in scary costumes and create large bonfires. Turnips and bonfires have been replaced with pumpkins that have candles inside, flickering on the porch, scaring away the demons.
Around here we used to carve one pumpkin at Halloween but I started to buy more than one pumpkin for decoration and hated to just toss them away so around 1998 I began carving all of them. Some years my husband and son would each do one and I’d do the rest but then my son went off to college and my husband wasn’t interested so I cut about 5 pumpkins myself each Halloween. Once the holiday is over and the faces start curling into themselves I move them across the road, facing the house and we watch them “melt” into the grass.
The earliest photo I have of the row of pumpkins is from ’98 when we lined them up in the plowed garden.Ten years later we had pumpkins and an Obama sign on our lawn. I hope these orange guys put a smile on the faces of people driving by our house. This year I once again did five Jack o’ Lanterns. They started out simple but got progressively toothy as the days went on. One, in particular, ended up channeling a character from Futurama, a robot named Bender. Not until I was completely done did I see the resemblance. Spooky.
The face at the beginning of this post is from this year (carved while I watched the Minnesota Vikings lose on Sunday, yeah!) and below are the rest of the gang. In a couple of days they will move across the road to wave at the school bus that rumbles down our road and then eventually join their brethren under the ground.