The tradition of pumpkin carving began not with carving pumpkins, but carving turnips, beets, and potatoes.
Hundreds of years ago, the Irish were the first to create "jack o' lanterns" which became synonymous with the tradition
of Halloween, which dates back two thousand years when the celts celebrated November 1 as the new year when harvesting
began and winter came, and also death.
The name jack o' lantern is actually Jack of the Lantern, referring to a mythical character named
Stingy Jack who played tricks on everyone and even with the devil. After Jack died, he was refused from
entering heaven. Amazingly enough, he was also refused from entering hell - the devil would have nothing to
do with him after his antics during his lifetime. Jack was forced to roam the world as a ghostly figure,
holding a lantern made out of a carved out turnip containing a burning coal. The tradition of the jack o' lantern was born.
The Irish took the myth of Jack of the Lantern and carved out of all sorts of foods large enough to display a face,
with the idea of warding away evil spirits (and Stingy Jack) that roamed the landscape when Halloween arrived every year.
Were they successful?
When Pumpkins were discovered in North America, they were quickly found to make excellent carvings.
Beets, turnips and potatoes were spared in favor of pumpkins, which functioned as a food and, then, as a tool for warding
away evil spirits on Halloween. Halloween, along with the jack o' lantern, was brought to America during the 1800s with a
wave of Irish immigrants. It is celebrated across the continent today and has been for over a century.
A pumpkin is not a vegetable; it's a fruit. Pumpkins come from the cucurbitaceae family and is related to melons,
squashes, zucchini and cucumbers. A very large number of the pumpkins grown today are for the purposes of carving
during Halloween. Pumpkins are very difficult to find outside of the fall season.
Today, pumpkin carving continues to be a big part of the Halloween tradition, extending across North America,
Ireland, parts of England, and in Europe in some places. Patented pumpkin carving saws have been designed, expert pumpkin
carvers have appeared on nation-wide television shows, and even software for creating stencils has been
developed (no kidding!).