Around the Island

A Shelter Island Historical Society Halloween

The Historical Society has sent along information from the Old Farmer’s 2020 Almanac on the origins of Halloween traditions:

“Before the modern pumpkin jack-o-lantern, turnip lanterns were used. In ancient Ireland, revelers would hollow out large turnips (or potatoes or beets) and carve them into a demon’s face to frighten away spirits.

“They would light the turnips from within with a candle or a piece of smoldering coal. They then placed the lanterns in the windows or doorways of their homes, in the belief that the carvings would scare off evil spirits and welcome deceased loved ones inside.

“Irish immigrants arriving in the New World during the early 1800s found the plentiful, easier-to-carve pumpkins ready substitutes for turnips.”