fbpx

Why Carved Pumpkins are a Symbol of Halloween

carved pumpkin iStockThe tradition of carving faces into vegetables or fruits dates to the Celts.

Many centuries ago as the summer harvest came to an end, the Celtic people prepared for the dark of winter by building big bonfires in their fields.  (Celts were people who predominantly lived in territories in western Europe—Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man).

They believed evil spirits lurked in the shadows around the bonfires, so they wanted light to guide their paths to and from the bonfires. The Celts carved faces on large turnips and then hollowed out the inside of the vegetable so a candle could sit within it. The light shining out through the carved faces scared away evil spirits. It also showed the way to their homes for the good spirits and for travelers.

Jack O’Lanterns

carved turnip

These carved vegetables were eventually called Jack O’Lanterns by the Irish who told a legend about a farmer named Jack who made a bargain with the devil that left him wandering the earth for all time.

Pumpkins in the New World

In 1584, French explorer Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America. He reported finding “gros melons.” “Pompions” became the term in English, which eventually became “pumpkin.”

When the immigrants arrived in America and found a bountiful supply of pumpkins, they soon adopted the pumpkin as the best fruit (and it is a fruit!) for carving Jack O’Lanterns.

Pumpkins belong to the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons, and zucchini.  They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.

***

To read the story about the tradition of Trick or Treating, click here.

To read about another iconic item for Halloween, click here: Candy Corn: The Story.

Share with Others!

11 thoughts on “Why Carved Pumpkins are a Symbol of Halloween”

  1. Pingback: Halloween Mischief Preceded Practice of Trick or Treating | America Comes Alive

  2. Pingback: Costumes and Halloween | America Comes Alive

  3. Pingback: Costumes and Halloween - America Comes AliveAmerica Comes Alive

  4. Pingback: Why do we use Pumpkins for Halloween? – We're All Nuts

  5. Pingback: Pumpkins and Halloween | ksparthasarathy

  6. Pingback: The ABC's Of Halloween - Ruthless Reviews

  7. Pingback: Who else wants to know the history of the festival of Halloween? ⋆ All Things Possible Co

  8. Pingback: What is Halloween and why do we celebrate it? | North Pole Star

  9. Pingback: It’s Pumpkin Carving Time! | History Imagined

  10. Pingback: An Artist Turns Pumpkins Into Popular Characters, and Here Are 20 of His Best Creations

  11. Pingback: An Artist Turns Pumpkins Into Popular Characters, and Here Are 20 of His Best Creations

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top