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Pumpkin History

Updated on October 1, 2013

Pumpkin History

Have you ever wondered how the tradition of carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns originated? Or where the word pumpkin came from? Or where pumpkins were first grown? Find out here! This page has answers to all your pumpkin history questions. Read on to learn more and brush up on your pumpkin facts before Halloween.

(Pumpkin image provided by Zazzle)

No one's quite sure where pumpkins came from, but they're though to have originated in the Americas. Pumpkin seeds dating back to between 7000 to 5000 BC have been found in Mexico, and scientists speculate that pumpkins have been grown in Mexico since this time.

According to, both the Aztecs and the Mayans used pumpkins. The Mayans used the seeds and oil in sauces and carved the shells into drinking vessels. "Even today, Mexican cuisine relies on pumpkin seeds for some of its finest regional dishes, while the pulp is prepared at this time of year as calabaza en tacha, a Day of the Dead delicacy whose preparation begins in late October," MexConnect says.

The word pumpkin comes from the word Greek word "pepon," which means "large melon."

The French later changed the word to "pompon," and the British further modified it to "pumpion." American colonists are responsible for changing the word once again to the word we now use - "pumpkin."

Source: Wikipedia

Every year on the last day of October, Americans display millions of carved pumpkins on porches and patios. But how did this tradition get started?

According to Irish mythology, it began with a man named Stingy Jack. According to legend, Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him, but the man was too stingy to pay for the drinks, so he convinced Satan to transform himself into a coin. After he did so, Jack decided he'd rather keep the coin than buy the drinks, so he stuck it in his pocket next to a silver cross, which made it impossible for the Devil to return to his original form. Eventually, Jack tired of keeping the Devil trapped, so he let him go with a promise that the Devil wouldn't bother him for a year.

At the end of the year, Jack once again tricked the Devil. This time, he convinced Satan to climb a fruit tree and once the Devil was in the tree, Stingy Jack carved a cross on the tree trunk, once again trapping the Devil. The man only allowed him to come down after the Devil promised not to bother Jack for 10 years.

Eventually, Jack died, but the Devil refused to have someone in Hell who had fooled him twice. And God didn't want this trickster in Heaven either. So the Devil gave Jack a candle and sent him to wander the earth forever. Jack put the light in a carved turnip, and forever thereafter, his spirit was known as Jack of the Lantern. Eventually it was shortened to just "Jack-o-lantern." Traditionally, turnips were the gourd most commonly carved during Halloween in Ireland and Scotland, but when Irish immigrants came to North America, they discovered that pumpkins were larger and easier to carve. Thus was born the pumpkin jack-o-lantern!

(Image provided by Zazzle)

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Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends andScare Your Neighbors
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends andScare Your Neighbors
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Did You Learn Something About Pumpkin History?

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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love 'Jack Tales'... this was a good one.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Interesting! I thought the pilgrims brought them from Europe.


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