Veg-o-Lantern Competition

FAIRYLAND GARDENERS’ AND WORT-RAISERS SOCIETY invites entries for the 2018 Fairyland Veg-o-Lantern competition

Entries must be in place by 4.30 pm Saturday, 3.30 pm Sunday.   

Bring entries to the Good Elf Cafe and Pub

Real Prizes in each category – to be presented

at 5 pm Sat, 4 pm Sun

from the stage in the Performance Tent

Two categories:  family, and 6-12yrs

Prizes: books, toys and more stuff

Some winners from The Real Halloween 2018:

How to Make A Veg-o-lantern (by Amazon Rose with Oscar, Daisy and Jo in Brighton)

Competition – How to Enter

Make a space for a tea light in your Veg o Lantern but it does not need to be lit.

When you arrive at The Real Halloween, make sure you pick up a category sticker from the Good Elf (pub/cafe). 

The Landlord of the Good Elf will present 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for the best creations in each category (timings above).

Points will be awarded for authenticity, creativity and inedibility.

Free to enter


  1. Only British grown fruit and veg to be used
  2. Use only cocktail sticks as accessories
  3. Extra points for organic
  4. All lanterns must have a hole or resting place for a tealight
  5. No plastic

Judging will begin about half an hour before the awarding  (no bribes but donations welcome)


  • 6 – 12 yrs old
  • Family entry

Safety:  Adults please supervise cutting tools !

sample of Card (check for authenticity):





The Veg-o-Lantern Competition is unique event open only to visitors to The Real Halloween

Here are some of the previous crop of root-veg and other assorted plant creations which caught the eye of the Judges:

first prize monster swede

Monster Swede – took First Prize

second prize

Fairy House – Second Prize

some other entries:

veg o lanterns 1veg o lantern prizeveg o lanterns various

veg o lantern sitsIMG_8343IMG_8361IMG_8351IMG_8344IMG_8358

The Veg-o-Lantern competition helps re-kindle the ancient British folk tradition of Jack-O-Lanterns (Will o’ The Whisps and all that – see more below). Long before pumpkins were imported to Britain from America, people used to carve root vegetables like turnips to make Jack-o-Lanterns to place in their windows at night in order to keep away mischievous spirits.  In Cornwall they were associated with the Pixies.  In East Anglia they were common in areas like the Fens and the Broads, where Will O’The Wisps were mysterious lights seen gliding above marshes.

will o wisp

Norfolk traveller sighting a Will o the Wisp on his way back from the pub

Simply create your own Veg-O-Lantern and bring it along to The Real Halloween before the deadline (see above).

The only real rules are that you should use a British root or garden vegetable (eg swede, turnip, marrow, magle-worzel, parsnip, large potato with eyes, etc) and attach accessories (limbs, noses, ears, hair etc) to taste.  Pumpkins are reluctantly permitted but being a recent American import, they are not encouraged, and commercially grown shop-bought pumpkins are discouraged as they are often full of chemicals.

no pumpkins

Pumpkins are not encouraged

Scenes from earlier Judgings:


judge dubious


History of the Competition

Ethel Brassica Spofforth judge

Little is known about the origins of the Veg o Lantern competition as much remains classified under the Fairyland 3,000 Year Rule but Judging is hereditary and passed down either the male or female line depending on who has the greenest fingers.   The photograph above shows Ethel ‘Brassicas’ Spofforth, on her way to the Avebury Judging in 1932.  Ethel was Head Judge from 1929 until 1943 when a virulent outbreak of Cabbage White Butterflies made it impractical for her to continue.

Un-authorised accounts have it that the origins of ‘Jack o Lanterns’ lie with the Cornish Pixies, themselves traditionally associated with tin mining. ‘Joan the Wad’ is celebrated in Cornwall, for example at the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft, and was Queen of the Pixies.  ‘Wad’ means torch and she was believed to light the way.  Her husband Jack o Lantern was King of the Pixies.  Accounts are divided as to whether they help strangers find their way or lead them astray. Perhaps it depends on how they are feeling or how nice people are to them.  In Devon Pixies are regarded as friendly and harmless.

Cornish tin mining is also strongly associated with magical folk, possibly linking to Pixies.  ‘Knockers‘ were magical beings known to who sound warning knocks to miners before a section of roof gave way.  Accordingly Cornish tin miners, who invented the Cornish Pasty as a way of taking food underground without needing excessive packaging, used to leave the last bit behind to feed the Knockers, or possibly Pixies.

knockers pasties

Knockers Pasties for Cornish Tin Miners

Cornish miners carried lamps to find their way underground and until the invention of the Safety Lamp by Sir Humphry Davy in 1815, these were candle stubs attached to felt hats, which posed a constant risk of explosions from mine gas.

cornish tin miner

Cornish miner with candle on his hat (not recommended)

cornish tin pixies

In Eastern England and other areas ‘Will of the Wisp‘ is also known as ‘Fools Fire’, and some say the term “will-o’-the-wisp”  simply comes from a “wisp”, or bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch.  Glowing orbs of light or flickering flames over bogs and marshes are widely thought to be a result of burning marsh gas such as methane: lights you would be a fool to follow.  However in Devon and Cornwall they are also known as Pixie Lights and in some cases are believed to lead travelers to hidden treasure, possibly mined by Pixies.  In East Anglia the lights are known as The Lantern Man, and caused particular problems around the Broads and on the Acle Straight on Fridays.

Some sugar-beet Veg o Lantern owls outside The Forum in Norwich in 2016 – they traveled widely but never quite made it into the competition. Fondly remembered by the slugs of Shouldham.

and some previous winners

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