The History of Carving Root Vegetables

Before pumpkins, there were turnips.

via Smithsonian

Today, carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns is ubiquitous with Halloween. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, however, chiseling ghoulish grins into turnips was the more common practice (at least in Ireland and other Celtic nations).

The spooky tradition was part of Samhain, an ancient pagan festival that marked the end of summer and the beginning of the Celtic new year and long winter ahead. (Samhain translates to “summer’s end” in Gaelic.) Kicking off at sundown on October 31 and continuing through November 1, Samhain ushered in the transition from the autumn equinox to the winter solstice. During those two days, ancient Celts believed that the veil between life and death was at its narrowest, allowing spirits to roam freely between both realms.

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