Monday, November 8, 2010

Turnip Lanterns (Rabeliechtli)...

Saturday just gone was the Räbeliechtliumzug (turnip lantern parade) in our village.  This is a parade that happens in many towns around Switzerland and is a very old tradition.  It celebrates the end of the harvest (the turnip is the last vegetable to be harvested).

In preparation I went down to the local supermarket and bought three large turnips to carve.

I also bought these - a special Räbeliechtli carving tool (just like a melon baller but a little smaller and perhaps a little more sharp), and a Swiss army knife.

I've never done anything like this before, not even carved a pumpkin!  It was a lot of fun, and the lanterns were fairly easy to make.

I started by taking a little bit off the bottom so it sat flat while I was working.

Next I cut the top off...  Take a little less off than I did here if you're making one, as the wind gets to them more easily if the opening is big.

Then began the carving...

Miss S requested hearts and stars for her lantern, so I drew the heart on...

I cut around the shape with my blade, going about 2mm in to the skin.

And then, this is when my camera (whose battery takes 1.5 hours to charge), decided to die.

So I shall continue without the aid of pictures.  I slid the blade under the skin and lifted the skin off.  You only need to take the very top off.  It's actually a lot easier than you'd think.

Then you hollow out the turnip leaving about a 7mm thick shell all around.  At this point Miss S began to eat the turnip pieces that were being flung about, she thought they were quite tasty, a bit like radish!

Then about 1 - 1.5 cm below the top lip, I made three holes for the string and threaded through long bits of string (they have to be long or your hands burn holding them!), and then tied the three pieces at the top.  

If you are just using them as a window sill or table-top decoration, you don't have to do this part.  Simply place a tea light in the lantern and watch your humble turnip cough up some magic!

I made three in total, and here they are:

This one I used star shaped cookie cutters to make the outline cuts - cheats' way!

For my one, I decided to use four different Kiwiana motifs.  This is a Pohutukawa flower.

...and a Kiwi...

...New Zealand... (sigh...)

...and a Silver Fern.

Here's Miss S's design.

If you're fascinated by this tradition, here are some pictures of the biggest Rabeliechlti Umzug in Switzerland.  It is held in a town a few stops south of here and is incredible!

1 comment:

  1. Nice to know I wasn't the only one to try Rabeliechtli's for the first time this year!

    A tip I picked up from a Swiss friend is to go to your local diy store and buy the special Rabeliechtli cutter set. This contains a wooden handle and various tools to help you carve all kinds of shapes.

    I was also handed a chinese soup spoon to hollow out my turnip as you can scoop more out and gets the job done quicker.

    Can't wait to do them again next year!!



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