"The name Jack O-Lantern comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack tricked the devil for his own monetary gain."
By: Erin Postma
It’s about that time of year again where people decorate their doorsteps with pumpkins carved with a variety of faces. Carving pumpkins was always an exciting event at my house. We would visit a local pumpkin patch and pick out the best one. My dad would carve and and my siblings and I would scoop out the guts (that was always my favourite part). I always had fun choosing what face my pumpkin would be sporting that year. As I got older it became less of a family event, but I still try to carve out some time on a gloomy afternoon, put on a halloween movie, drink some hot chocolate and carve a pumpkin. This year I couldn’t help but wonder why we carve pumpkins and I did a little bit of research into the history behind it.
The practice of decorating Jack O’lanters originated in Ireland. However they used to carve large turnips instead of pumpkins. The name Jack O-Lantern comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack tricked the devil for his own monetary gain. When Jack died he wasn’t allowed in heaven and the devil didn't let him into hell. Jack was sentenced to roam to the earth for eternity. The Irish would carve turnips to scare away Jack's wandering soul. When the Irish immigrants moved to the US they brought this tradition with them. However they started carving pumpkins instead of turnips , as they were native to the region.
Samhain is an ancient Irish festival celebrating the end of summer. It was held on November 1st. The world of the gods was believed to be made visible to humans on the evening of Samhain. The gods would play tricks on their mortal worshippers.
In the 8th Century the Roman Catholic church moved all Saints Day to November 1st. This meant that All Hallows Eve (Halloween) fell on October 31st. Traditions from Samhain remained, such as wearing disguises to hide yourself from the souls wandering around and carving pumpkins were incorporated into Halloween. We have been carving pumpkins for October 31st ever since.
I hope you can get outside this week and visit your local pumpkin patch. Pick out your favourite pumpkin, bring it home, cut it open, scoop out its guts then carve it with a creative face. Maybe even roast the pumpkin seeds - they make a great snack!
Here is a list of some local pumpkin patches you should visit!
FrontenacHastings, Lennox, Addington, Prince Edward. Ottawa