For instance, on the Isle of Man, kids don’t go trick or treating. Instead, they dress up in costumes and perform “nonsense” songs in return for sweets or coins. The nonsense songs vary across the island, with certain songs being preferred in particular towns and villages, but the most popular song – and the one to feature in DARK TIDES – is called Jinny the Witch, and it contains some pretty bizarre, and quite dark, lyrics. Another key difference between Hop-tu-naa and Halloween is that traditionally, people on the Isle of Man carve turnip lanterns instead of pumpkins. Want to know how to carve your own turnip lantern? Well, you’re in luck. Here’s my quick and easy guide.
Step 1: Make sure you have a first aid kit to hand because you’ll probably need one.
Step 2: Brush up on your Manx Gaelic. a turnip on the island is known as a “moot”.
Step 3: Select your moot. It must be big enough for you to be able to carve a face on the front (too small and your turnip isn’t going to have enough features…) and yet not so big that hollowing it out requires weeks of effort.
Step 4: Grab a very sharp knife and slice off the top of the turnip, setting it to one side.
Step 5: Remove the insides of your turnip, which sounds easy, but sadly isn’t. In fact, it can be such a painful chore that I know of several different approaches. Some people stick with the knife from Step 4 and score out layers of flesh until they’ve formed a deep bowl shape. Others experiment with electric drills fitted with hole saw attachments. Most know, however, that the only sure way to get a satisfactory outcome is by carving bits of turnip out with a spoon. Whatever option you go with, brace yourself for a sprained wrist and blistered thumbs, don’t foget that first aid kit from Step 1, and know that you’ll probably end up eating a lot of turnip soup in the coming days.
Step 6: Decoration. Grab that sharp knife again and get creative, but bear in mind that turnips are much trickier to carve than pumpkins. Most people go for a face on the front of the turnip, usually consisting of simple diamond shapes for eyes and a gapped-tooth mouth, and some variety of stars and moons on the reverse.
Step 7: Punch two holes in the sides of the carved turnip, close to the top, and another two holes in the lid of the turnip. Now thread some string through these holes to form a handle to carry the turnip by and also to hold the lid in place. Many people also punch one final hole in the lid to function as a chimney.
Step 8: Place a tea light inside your carved moot, light it, put the lid on, dress up in the most imaginative costume you can think of and go off into the Hop-tu-naa night, ready to wow your neighbours with your best rendition of Jinny the Witch. Oh, and take a lighter with you – those Manx coastal winds will extinguish your tea light over and over again.
Step 9 (Optional): Return home and settle yourself down in front of the fire with a copy of DARK TIDES, some Bushy’s Manx Ale and the flickering light from your very own turnip lantern to read by …
DARK TIDES by Chris Ewan is out now, £14.99 (Faber & Faber)
When Claire Cooper was eight, her mother disappeared during Hop-tu-naa, the Manx Halloween.
When Claire was eighteen, she and her friends took part in a Hop-tu-naa dare that went terribly wrong.
Now in her early twenties and a police officer, what happened that Hop-tu-naa night has come back to haunt them all, and Claire must confront her deepest fears in order to stop a killer from striking again.
As part of the tour I have 5 signed copies of Dark Tides to give away (sorry restricted to UK residents only), enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway