Sunday, October 20, 2013



Pumpkin carving has been around for decades, and has become an art unto itself in recent years. But I still love to see the creations of the younger generation that decorate porches on Halloween night. I decided it might be fun to look back and read some of the history of the Jack-o’-Lantern, and I found a few facts I didn’t know.

In my research, I discovered that there isn’t much definitive proof of how the use of carved vegetables became part of the Halloween celebration. Most of my sources indicate that they have been used for centuries, mostly in Europe, as part of the end of harvest celebrations. Some of these celebrations were of a Christian persuasion, but others were pagan.

I used Wikipedia for the following enlightenment regarding this subject.

Ignis fatuus, (foolish fire), or will-o’-the-wisp in English, folklore dates back to the 1660’s. A wisp was a bundle of paper or sticks used as a torch. The bundle was shoved into some kind of container and lit.

The origin of Jack-O-Lantern carving is uncertain. According to Wiki sources, gourds, turnips, beets and other vegetables have been used for carving. Gourds reportedly were the earliest plant species domesticated by humans around 10,000 years ago, mainly because they were easy to carve. Gourds were carved into lanterns by the Maori over 700 years ago.

Some believe that the tradition of carving Jack-o-Lanterns came to the US via Ireland sometime during the 19th century. These carvings were often made from turnips or squashes and were used as lanterns to light the way for guisers during Samhain celebrations. Others claim that the carvings originated with All Saints Day and represented souls in purgatory. The carvings were often left on window sills to protect the home from evil spirits during a time when fairies and other mischief makers were most prone to roam during the night.

According to Wiki, there is no historical evidence that turnips were ever carved into lanterns in Ireland for use on Halloween. But by the 1880’s, American children were certainly carving pumpkins into grotesque faces to use in their own version of fall revelry.

Do you enjoy pumpkin carving? Do you save the seeds for roasting and the 'guts' for creating pumpkin pie? Describe the coolest pumpkin carving you've ever seen.

Happy Carving!

Cordelia Dinsmore


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