Pumpkin/Vegetable Carving Competition

Pumpkin/Vegetable Carving Competition

As part of our October 31st celebrations this year, the Museum is taking part in a Boscastle wide pumpkin carving competition (organised by Denise Tillinghast on behalf of the Boscastle Chamber of Trade and Commerce).

Anyone can enter. Please drop off your carved pumpkins to the Museum (preferably with your contacts on a sticker on the pumpkin and with a tealight inside). If you don't have stickers or tealights the Museum will have a store of them. The pumpkins will be lit and displayed in the Harbour area from around 3pm on Halloween.

If you want to enter, drop off your pumpkin at the Museum.  We will be accepting pumpkins from Thursday October 29th until Saturday October 31st (closing time for entrants: 12 noon).  Judging will commence at 4pm and you will be contacted if you have won a prize.  You will then have 24 hours to collect your pumpkin again (if you want it).  After that time all pumpkins will be disposed of. The pumpkins will really help the Harbour to create a fabulous atmosphere for the other events outside the Museum that day http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/news/halloween-event-this-year-new-poster-available  

halloween 057

Why do people carve pumpkins on Halloween? (a little sneak peak of our forthcoming exhibition on Halloween)... There is great debate about the carved vegetable.  Is it just a bit of fun?  Is it part of a harvest festival tradition?  Is it part of a guising tradition (when people often travelled from house to house with lanterns made of various things)?  Was the vegetable originally a skull with a lamp inside (like a witch's lamp)?  Does it represent a soul in Purgatory or is it seasonal reminder of our ancestors?  There are no clear answers but lots of interesting speculation.  Here is an (uncomprehensive) summary of its history...


Many people might think that carved vegetables are an American invention (or incursion depending on your attitude) but October 31st has a long association with vegetables, nuts and fruits of various kinds (many of which will be explored in our 2016 exhibition).  Pumpkins have been used more recently due to their colour, the ease of their carving and the influence of American culture.  There are examples of carved turnips in the Museum of Ireland (photograph above) and there is a long tradition of vegetable carving in the English village of Hinton St George (where lots or root vegetables are carved see photo below).

hinton st george

Carved vegetables are often called Jack O'Lanterns.  The first known reference to "Jack with the Lantern" was in 1663.  He may have been a figure linked to Jack O'Lent (a figure who was pelted on Ash Wednesday).


In 1704, there is a reference to Jack of Lanthorns.  In 1773, a play by Sheridan contains the line, “I have followed Cupid’s jack-a-lantern, and found myself in a quagmire.”  This may link with the idea that Jack O'Lantern is another name for a will o the wisp (mysterious lights which were said to lead travellers into marshes and which have been associated with souls in Purgatory amongst other things).  By 1807, Jack O'Lanterns were associated with what came to be seen as typical Halloween activities - giving people a scare and pranking.  Coleridge spoke of, “Jack o’Lantern lights which mischievous boys…throw looking glass on the faces of their opposite neighbours.” The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was published in 1807.  Although it makes no reference to Halloween and the vegetable of the headless horseman is without a carved face, this is the "first spooky use of a pumpkin." (Lisa Morton)  In 1949, Walt Disney released their own version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow (with narration by Bing Crosby!) which placed a Jack O'Lantern in the hands of the horseman.  Since that time, the Jack O'Lantern has been indelibly linked with Halloween.


Who was Jack O'Lantern?

In many folktales, Jack was a perennial trickster.  He offended not only God but the Devil with his many pranks and transgressions.  Upon death he was denied entrance to Heaven and Hell.  The Devil threw a fiery coal from Hell at him which Jack caught in a hollowed turnip.  This lantern would light his night-walk on earth until Judgement Day.  Jack’s perpetual prank is said to be the decoying of hapless travellers into the murky mire.  The Jack O'Lantern may date back to this ancient tale.


So there you have a brief overview of the carved vegetable lantern, its origins and possible symbolism.  If you are able to bring a carved vegetable (pumpkin, turnip, whatever!) we would be very happy to see you here at the Museum.

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