How to Carve Moots for Hop tu Naa

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Instead of Jack-o-lanterns, people on the Isle of Man carve ‘Moots’. Here’s how to carve turnip lanterns for a traditional taste of Halloween and Hop tu Naa

Hop tu Naa on the Isle of Man is celebrated in much the same way and on the same day as Halloween. Not much is different and you’ll see trick-or-treaters, share scary tales, and indulge in plenty of sweets. There are differences though, one being that turnips are carved as jack-o-lanterns instead of pumpkins. Carved ‘Moots’ have been made for centuries and many families still make them to this day.

It was my first time carving a turnip. Swede actually. Rutabega if you’re from the states. However, you want to call this cabbagey root vegetable. It’s interesting to think that I never saw a turnip in person until I was a teenager and didn’t taste one until my 20s. They’re as uncommon where I grew up as pumpkins were in the UK until relatively recently.

In Britain it's more traditional to carve turnips than pumpkins for Halloween! Here's how to carve one of your own into a glowing candle votive...just perfect for Autumn parties #halloween

The hard way to carve a turnip jack-o-lantern

Though most turnips are carved with scary Jack-o-lantern faces I chose to go with a prettier and more Autumn-styled design for my first attempt. The process started with hollowing out the inside of a turnip with a knife, a spoon, and plenty of hacking. There has got to be a quicker way of doing it and I’d appreciate it if you can share any suggestions. Update: in 2017 we made moots by first using a drill to hollow out the centers. Watch the video below to see how we did it.

YouTube video

Next, I used a few sharp yet blunt tools to carve a design into the exterior. Only a few millimeters deep, I was surprised by how much light came through when the turnip votive was lit. I’m actually fairly impressed with how pretty the light coming from the turnip is when sitting in a dark room. I could definitely see these eco-friendly decorations being used as table decorations for autumn parties and events.

In Britain it's more traditional to carve turnips than pumpkins for Halloween! Here's how to carve one of your own into a glowing candle votive...just perfect for Autumn parties #halloween
In Britain it's more traditional to carve turnips than pumpkins for Halloween! Here's how to carve one of your own into a glowing candle votive...just perfect for Autumn parties
With a tealight inside, the entire turnip jack-o-lantern glows

The Easy Way to Carve a Moot

It took me about an hour to make my turnip votive with most of that time being spent carving the exterior. As a beginner, I’d recommend large blocky designs to start off with since I found that the skin of the turnip pulled away when I tried to carve too intricately. I also didn’t actually cut any of the designs all the way through the turnip since just scraping a basic design on the outside is enough to let more light through than the un-carved bits. The candle inside the turnip is a standard tea light.

CARVED MOOTS Create a traditional British 'Moot' for your Autumn decorating. Design the sides with leaves, pattern, or spooky faces for a Halloween feel!

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11 Comments

  1. Rene Jackson says:

    I’ve got a variety of hole saw bits for my drill. I’m going to try it. (I was given fresh turnips by a neighbor and I don’t like the taste so I looked to see if they could be carved. Apparently so!)
    I’ll let you know how mine turns out. I don’t think I have the patience for an hour-long carving session.

    1. You know, I passed a pile of Hop tu Naa Turnips at the shop yesterday. I hesitated over them for the same reason!

  2. I have a long row of turnips this year and tried rutabagas for the first time, they are getting big but the turnips would be easier to carve for sure. I make a kind of sauerkraut by grating turnips that tastes better than the cabbage version. Anyway I may have to try some carving this year as I have too many for us to eat and people don't eat them much here.

  3. I had no idea you were American! The light is lovely, but I can imagine how hard it is to hollow out the swede to start with. You are right, it is such a shame that Hallowe'en is so very commercialised. So much plastic. I'll be carving one simple pumpkin with the children later, and making some little Hallowe'en jellies in oranges carved to look like pumpkins. I might even make a pecan pie!

    1. That's right CJ…I haven't lived in the states for a long time but it's still the land of my birth :)

      Clever idea with the little pumpkin jellies and have fun with the pumpkin carving!

  4. I don't think there is an easy way of hollowing out the swede. We used to make a swede lantern for Hallowe'en and I remember the whole family taking turns because it's not easy! I love the votive idea though- very pretty.

    I assumed for years that we used a swede because there weren't any pumpkins in rural Oxfordshire in the 1970's, but I think actually swedes were the original Irish Jack o'lantern (like your Manx celebration) that was 'improved' into the locally abundant, bigger, (and easier to carve!) pumpkin in America.

    1. I saw some photos from Cregneash last week that had one of the farmers hollowing out turnips for the kids with some sort of electric drill. A bit too heavy duty for me but there must be some sort of hand tool that can help?

      In having a look online I've found similar swede carving traditions across the British Isles and into parts of Germany and Austria. Seeing as the Celtic culture sprang from the continent it makes me wonder if that's where it all began. If so, Turnip/Swede carving must have been going on for a VERY long time!