By: A. Lotufo
Yet again, the season of Halloween comes and goes, and every year, pumpkins are lit. Children and families cut pumpkins and light them up, decorating their houses full of Halloween spirit. But why are we carving pumpkins anyway?
The pumpkin carving tradition goes back many years, and it derives from an Irish myth of a man called “Stingy Jack”. In this myth, Jack tricks the devil for money. When Jack died, God wouldn’t let Jack into heaven and the devil wouldn’t let him into hell, because he fooled the devil and did bad to the world therefore not being accepted into any of the afterlife worlds, condemning Jack to wander the earth for the rest of eternity.
In Ireland, people would carve faces into turnips to scare away the spirit of “Stingy Jack”, and when people from Ireland started to immigrate to the U.S., they started using the native alternative, pumpkins. But how did this tradition become a staple for Halloween?
An ancient British and Irish festival called the Celtic Festival Samhain is where Halloween came from. It announced the end of Summer and the beginning of the new year on November 1st. During this festival, it was believed that spirits that died the past year would come back to their homes in the overworld, consequently maintaining the tradition of carving pumpkins to scare away the spirits.
Halloween is now celebrated on October 31st and the pumpkin carving tradition remains a strong staple for this holiday together with many others that were created along the way for example apple bobbing and trick or treating.