Hallowe’en: Kind of …

In a blog that purports to be allotment based, around Hallowe’en time there has to be somethin’ about pumpkins right?
Well, near enough I am hoping.
When I was a child, we always had jack lanterns. My grandfather brought home some swedes from the farm fields and we hollowed them out; eating the flesh, either raw (my favourite) or cooked. Ironically the sharp taste of swede is one of my sweet and abiding memories associated with Hallowe’en. At that time pumpkins were “heard about, but seldom seen” (one of my grandfather’s regular sayings that one) so most Jack lanterns were swedes.
We’d carve a simple face, put a candle inside and put it in the hedgerow at night. We lived out in the country so hardly anyone would have seen it, but it was fun. We always did another one for bonfire night. More people would see this one as our bonfires were very real, if unofficial community events where family and friends got together.

These, incidentally are at least family traditions that I have tried to pass on; we have, however moved on to pumpkins, which we grow in raised beds at the allotment. Not the monster, show-table, record-breaking “bosters”, just reliable-and-interesting pumpkins. Of which we use a couple for carving, using the flesh for eating: soups, scones, pies and roasted chunks: all delicious!

But there was no trick or treating. None of the whole long-term party-over-a-month-or-so American invasion was somewhere in the future.
In New England (on a recent, enjoyable recent “leaf peeper” tour that had so many memorable) we experienced the whole shebang shootin’ match first hand … and began to put into context some of the film and American Halloween references that have surrounded us.
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Arriving on the last day of September we saw every house, café, bus station, hotel lobby, business premises decorated with wreaths, carved and un-carved pumpkins, mannequins, scary tableaux and all extravagantly done. (I was inclined to type “done to Death” but not sure it would have worked.)
To my middle of England sensibilities the celebration has just extended, extended and gone on extending. There is almost nothing European about the U.S. celebrations. Now that’s not meant to be critical, but Hallowe’en started as some kind of religious festival – and over there, bears no relation to what I had understood it to be – originally.
 On the advice of a member of staff at a hotel we hiked up a seriously steep path which switch backed between gathering rainclouds that kept wiser walkers indoors. When we reached the top (ski-lift station) we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by the paraphernalia of a night-time Zombie tour. Life sized skeletons in iron cages strapped to trees, a guillotine, a shed with severed heads hanging from the rafters, a gibbet with corpse dangling from it …
With the clouds rifting in, that peculiar silence that you get on mountains when conditions are like this it was eerie.
But, while this was spook and the hotel knew all about it, saving me the job of reporting a serial killer to the police, somewhat stranger was the churchyard in Chatham, Cape Cod.
Now, they grow a lot of pumpkins in New England. Informed by our (Irish) tour guide that over 90% of the pumpkins sold in the U.S. are used for decoration only, we were so very surprised when the pastor of the church (First Episcopalian I think, but don’t quote me) told us most of these pumpkins had been bought from New Mexico. I was thinking they had been donated by local people, perhaps farmers whose cleared squash fields we had passed on the coach (and continued to pass for the rest of the tour).

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the mention! 🙂

    Reply

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