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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 06:46 GMT 07:46 UK
Turnip battles with pumpkin for Hallowe'en

By Julian Fowler
BBC Northern Ireland's reporter in the west

The Jack O'Lantern is the symbol of Hallowe'en.

Irish immigrants took tradition of Jack O'Lantern to America
Irish immigrants took tradition of Jack O'Lantern to America

It was said that if a demon were to encounter something as fiendish looking as themselves, they would run away in terror.

In Ireland - the tradition was to carve out turnips, but now it seems pumpkins are all the rage.

According to folklore, the Jack O'Lantern is named after a blacksmith Stingy Jack who tricked the devil into paying for his drinks.

Unable to enter heaven or hell when he died, the devil threw him a burning ember.

He was left to wander the earth carrying it about inside a turnip - or should that be a pumpkin?

Ronald Greenway grows up to 10 acres of turnips near Dungannon in County Tyrone.

Hallowe'en used to be his busiest time - but not any more.

"When I was small, I didn't know what a pumpkin was really, so I suppose we used the next best thing, a turnip."

Jack O'Lantern is named after a blacksmith Stingy Jack
Jack O'Lantern is named after a blacksmith Stingy Jack

At the Ulster American Folk Park - they have been growing pumpkins in the run-up to their Hallowe'en festival.

Irish immigrants took the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern with them to America, as Rachel Craig, an interpreter at the park explains.

"In Ireland, people cut out heads and faces of turnips and hid them in the hedgerows as a prank during Hallowe'en and they would have carried the tradition over to America."

But when they arrived in the New World, they just could not find any turnips, so they used pumpkins instead.

And now that Hallowe'en has become more commercial, the American tradition has become more common.

Liam Corry, the assistant curator of the Ulster American Folk Park, says folklore is constantly evolving.

pumpkin
Once you have scooped out a pumpkin you can make pumpkin pie

"Each generation creates its own folklore drawing on the traditions of the past and also the needs of the present.

"So with Hallowe'en, it started off as a commercial sort of thing and pumpkins were introduced from America for creating a bit of atmosphere."

But perhaps the proof as to why pumpkins are more popular now is in the eating.

Once you have scooped out a pumpkin you can make pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup.

While the good old turnip, well, you can make turnip surprise.




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