Tomorrow is Halloween and honestly one of my favorite holiday. As a kid, you can dress up and get free candy, it was almost better than Christmas! I have grown out of the trick-or-treating stage of my life, unfortunately, but now I can use Halloween to explore more of my heritage and culture. I know it sounds weird but it’s when I can really be Irish. The mass immigration of Irish (and Scottish) immigrants brought the tradition overseas. They celebrated Samhain Night which was a festival of the harvest and it symbolized the end of the season and the beginning of the winter. On the night of the 31st however, Sam Hain opens the portal to the other world of fairies (and I don’t mean cute fries with pink dresses that give you cookies, read some Irish lore and you’ll see what fairies really are) and the dead. Masks were used to scare away evil spirits. The Irish carved turnips and potatoes to light the way of travelers and scare evil spirits and keep them from entering their home. When the tradition was brought over to the United States, they started using pumpkins. .
Every year my family and I carve pumpkins, at least I used to. Two years ago I began to carve turnips and potatoes because pumpkins take forever, the insides are gross and I wanted to follow tradition, the tradition that my family would have followed in Ireland. They are so easy and so much fun! So last year I branched out a bit from traditions and not only carved turnips but rutabagas, parsnips, various gourds and kiwis! This year I only did turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, radishes and brussels sprouts. I couldn’t find any good Kiwis.
Everything turned out perfect! The turnips were huge, I could fit a candle in them and watch the flames flicker through the holes I carved. Brussels Sprouts are a little difficult but completely worth it, looking like little aliens or ghouls with distorted faces, the ones that hide under your bed.
I’ve never done radishes but decided to carve them into little skulls, which I’m going to keep out until the 2nd of November for Día de Los Muertos. I’m not Mexican and Puerto Ricans don’t celebrate this holiday, but I just love the idea of celebrating loved ones who have passed away in that fashion, large floats and decorations and picture and memories all around the home and cemetery. It’s so beautiful.
I do have to warn you, if you ever decide to carve a rutabaga, first of all they are very hard to gut. I just use one of those tools that you can scoop melon out with, it takes for ever and they smell AWFUL, but look really cool. Also, I definitely don’t recommend potatoes and I have no idea how the Irish pulled that one off! They turn brown and smell and are all around disgusting after about an hour or two.
I love being able to explore my culture and where my family came from. I’m so proud of who I am because I am an American. I’m an American because I’m this massive mix of different cultures, beliefs and nationalities and can be inspiried to follow so many interesting traditions. This is just one very fun way I can share my culture with everyone else. Parents who bring their kids up to our door will always comment on how neat all of the different carvings look and I can tell them, these ideas come from the original Irish celebration of Halloween. I love being able to share my culture and my heritage because, especially in the States, we are all a mix of something and that is a beautiful thing.