Why pumpkins at Halloween – witch is the answer?
Why pumpkins at Halloween? If you’re like me, you probably never give this a second thought until every October when you start seeing all the Halloween merchandise appearing in the shops and find that where the potatoes and carrots were in the fruit and veg aisle, you can now find pumpkins galore! It’s one of those questions that you think could put you in the awkward position of seeming to be the only person in your circle of friends that doesn’t know the answer – it must be obvious, right?
Well, let’s see if we can find the answer, if only to appear knowledgeable and sophisticated should the question of ‘why pumpkins at Halloween’ ever comes up in casual conversation. It’s probably best to start off with asking the question of why would you want to put something scary looking on your doorstep in the first place?
Why carve pumpkins to make them scary?
The 31st October, or ‘Halloween’ has been celebrated for centuries by young and old alike. For many, it is the most magical night of the year, the witches’ New Year. The modern traditions of Halloween are said to have roots in a Celtic holiday called Samhain, which was celebrated every Oct. 31, particularly in Ireland, to mark the end of the summer and the final harvest.
The carving of lanterns, given the name “jack-o’-lantern” is of British origin and dates from the 17th century, when it literally meant “man with a lantern”.
People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween for centuries and is said to originate from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.”, who invited the Devil to have a drink with him. The carved out lanterns are to prevent Stingy Jack and other ghouls from entering the home. Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles.
If I’ve understood things so far, the scary pumpkins are to keep Stingy Jack and other ghosts out of your house. Okay, why do we use pumpkins and not something else?
Why pumpkins at Halloween and not something else?
Why pumpkins at Halloween? Without a doubt the most recognizable symbol of Halloween is a pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern. However, the tradition originally started with the carving of turnips and potatoes, or even large beets. However, when European settlers, particularly the Irish, arrived in America, they found the native pumpkins to be plentiful, larger and easier to carve and made the perfect choice for jack-o-lanterns.
Seems to make perfect sense to me – pumpkins it is! Okay, how many pumpkins are we talking about then at Halloween?
How many pumpkins are used at Halloween?
Put simply, the British and Americans really love their pumpkins. During a typical Halloween season, it is thought that nearly 19,000 tonnes of pumpkin are sold in the UK and US. That’s enough pumpkins to cover the 1,524 miles between London and Transylvania (or make 41 million pumpkin pies!).
Pumpkin sales have increased rapidly and it is estimated that around 3.7 million pumpkins are sold for Halloween each year in the UK to mark Halloween.
What have we learnt about ‘why pumpkins at Halloween’?
Okay, what have we learnt about ‘why pumpkins at Halloween’?
Should you be unfortunate enough to be drawn into a debate on pumpkins and Halloween (or are looking to create your own devilment by starting a conversation on this), I would suggest you keep it simple and simply state that:
“Halloween is all about keeping ‘Stingy Jack’ out of your house by carving a frightening face in a pumpkin. Lots of people have tried using turnips and potatoes in the past but have confidently reported that pumpkins are much easier to carve – fact”.
Further reading (if I kept your attention this far!)
If I’ve kept your attention this long, you must be really interested in pumpkins and ‘Stingy Jack’! If I’m right, here are some links to articles I have used for the content of this blog. If you’re done with any more reading, I hope you have a better understanding of the question ‘why pumpkins at Halloween’?