The following project was excerpted from Great Pumpkins: Crafty Carving for Halloween by Peter Cole and Jessica Hurley (Chronicle Books, 2003)
We all know that the original jack-o'-lantern was a turnip. Before the tradition of illuminating and carving pumpkins was started in the United States, potatoes, beets, turnips, and other root vegetables were carved with scary faces. They were then hung near the front door to frighten away the malicious spirits that roamed about around the time of Halloween. This is a wonderful project for people of all ages because it can be carved with a blunt butter knife. Each member of the family can choose a favorite vegetable and create a unique, protective totem.
You will need:
• 1 root vegetable for each member of the family
• Blunt knives, any kind
• Acrylic paint (optional)
• Paper towel (optional)
• Small nails with heads
• String, any kind
Cover your work surface with newspaper. Choose which side of your cleaned vegetable will be the front, and then use the knife to carefully carve your design. Once carved, to highlight the features, rub colored paint into the face with a paper towel. Then insert a nail into the top of the head, and hang the vegetable near the front door of your house with string.
The vegetables pictured here are (left to right) yam, turnip, turnip, russet potato, sweet potato.
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