On the last day of October, we did typical things of the season. Tom lit the bonfire,
and I harvested the rest of the pumpkins. Molly helped.
The largest pumpkin weighed 10.4 kg (Molly weighs just under 14, she's a bit chubby these days, but we think she's just comfortable).
And of course I carved one of them into a lantern.
I meant to put him outside atop one of these pumpkin towers by the front door. We had (very polite) trick-or-treaters for the first time last year, and wondered if we'd see them again this Halloween, but the weather turned quite wild and windy (nothing, I know, compared to what some have been enduring), and both lantern and children stayed indoors.
I left the pumpkin stacks outside though. You never know, I said to Tom, someone might steal some of them. No such luck, he muttered. So far I have succeeded in getting disguised pumpkin into him in cake, soup and stew, but he's getting wise to it.
Halloween has never been much observed here; there have been attempts to make something of it during the time we've been here, but it's been resisted, either consciously as undesirable commercialism and Americanisation, or simply through apathy. However, Pierre-Jakez Hélias, writing about his childhood in the Bigouden region of western Finistère in the first half of the last century, says
Just before All Saints Day, we were in the habit of hollowing out huge beets, cutting holes in them in the shape of eyes, noses and mouths, putting a candle inside each one, and closing them up. A human-head lantern like that, placed at night on a slope or concealed in the underbrush along a sunken road, always terrified a few night owls.
They would set them on peoples windowsills, tap on the window and hide, so that the inhabitant thought they were seeing the Ankou, the personification of death, and another time, he says, they put them on their heads and walked through the village on their home-made stilts in the dark, intoning the Libera, a funeral dirge,
When they [the women of the village] saw the procession of fiery eyes and hellish mouths seven feet above the ground, they made such an uproar that we ourselves were overwhelmed. We got down from our stilts and at the same time our beet-heads fell off like an avalanche straight out of the Last Judgement. None of us ever admitted that we had taken part in that little drama. The Libera had been just too much. One doesn't trifle with the Next World, even on stilts.
(The Horse of Pride. Pierre-Jakez Hélias, 1975, trans.June Guicharnaud)
These children knew nothing of the word or any modern customs of Halloween, their region really was quite a world apart at that time. The lantern head custom seemed really to have come from some very ancient shared Celtic past as the Irish one. The assimilated pumpkin with its American continent origin makes for a very attractive orange glow and easy carving, but I've often thought a real turnip lantern could create a more atavistic, primitive, and perhaps more genuinely spooky, effect. I might get hold of one and try it next year. I can well imagine we might be so pumpkinned-out by then I won't be growing any more for a while.