Design Gets Scary – 6. As it’s Fright Night tonight, today’s post is on the design of one Halloween tradition, the carved pumpkin Jack O’Lantern. Like so many Halloween rituals, it originated centuries ago in Scotland and Ireland in the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain that marked the end of the harvest season, when people laid in supplies of food for the winter months. Samhain coincided with October 31, the date on which the ancient Gaels believed that the dead returned to life, unleashing evil spirits to spread sickness and ruin crops.
For centuries, people donned terrifying costumes and lit bonfires in the hope of frightening away those spirits. By the 19th century, they also carved monstrous faces out of turnips, and placed candles inside to turn them into lanterns. The Scottish and Irish immigrants to the United States took their Halloween traditions with them, but replaced turnips with pumpkins, which were softer and easier to carve. These days, the most elaborate Halloween celebrations, like this Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortland Manor in the Hudson Valley, feature thousands of carved pumpkin lanterns.
If you would like to visit the Great Jack-O-Lantern Blaze at Van Cortland Manor, you are in luck because it is on for a full month, just one hour from New York City by train.
And do follow Alice Rawsthorn if you are at all interested in design; recent series have included Designing Gardens, Design Takes Flight, Design & Health, and Design & Hotels.
Photos: Historic Hudson Valley