What’s A Turnip Got to Do with Halloween? Or Rutabagas, Beets, and Gourds, for That Matter?

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

Folklore or fakelore, the general consensus seems to be that the Irish who came to America brought their custom of carving turnips for All Hallows Eve. They must grow large turnips in the sod over there! Lacking a turnip, rutabagas, beets, or gourds would also do.

Delicious legend, that’s what started the practice of carving Jack O’Lanterns, an example of how cultural practices migrate and are modified depending upon local conditions. Here’s the Tale of Stingy Jack:

© 2013 C. Bertelsen


  1. Tony Flanagan says:

    Ja, in Ireland we used to try to get a turnip nearly the size of a soccer ball. I am not sure in retrospect they were turnips. Possibly Sweedes? Yellow rather than white flesh. Purple skin on the top half. The flesh makes a horrid orange mush when stewed – as it often was. They were grown in summer and harvested from September onwards all through the winter, mainly as sheep food.


    1. Thanks for the confirmation, Tony!


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