- Holidays and Celebrations
The Pumpkin Patch: Halloween Fun
It's time for some Halloween fun....
Ahhhh, it's autumn again! The leaves are turning brilliant shades of red, yellow, orange, and (yes) brown, the days are filled with crisp air and warm sunshine, and Halloween is fast approaching! One of the best things about Halloween for children (and adults too) is going to a pumpkin patch or farmer's market, there's nothing quite like carefully selecting a pumpkin to carve, paint, or use for decoration!
This page is all about pumpkins and the Halloween traditions that surround them: the pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins, culture, and a little Halloween pumpkin history.
Please note: all the images on this pages are either mine or photos licensed under Creative Commons and linked to the source.
Have you ever grown your own pumpkins?
Pumpkin harvest -- a fun tradition for Halloween or Autumn
I love the autumn season -- it's a beautiful time of year and the cool, crisp air is a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of summer. Autumn also means it's time for Halloween! When I was growing up, one of my favorite traditions was selecting the "perfect" pumpkin for Halloween carving. My parents have a large garden and grow pumpkins every year (now just for decoration), so my brother, sister, and I used to have a lot of fun eyeing the pumpkins in the "pumpkin patch" and picking out our favorite one! We waited in anticipation for the pumpkins to turn orange in late summer and waited some more until the big day arrived when we got to harvest the pumpkins.
We had watched the pumpkin plants grow from seeds, saw the pumpkins develop, and waited for them to grow big, turn orange, and finally the plants began to turn brown, which meant harvest time was here! Watching pumpkins grow definitely taught me some patience and that good things will happen if you can wait long enough.
Usually we had more than enough pumpkins for the three of us to keep, but some years were too dry or too wet for pumpkins, so we loaded up and visited a local farm to pick the perfect pumpkin from there instead. Those pumpkins just didn't seem as special though, because I hadn't watched them grow and flourish!
Of course, regardless of where your pumpkin comes from, once you've picked it out the fun really begins.....
Picture taken by me.
My Parent's Pumpkin Patch from several years ago
Carving or decorating pumpkins: lots of fun!
Pumpkins and Halloween just go together, you will be hard-pressed to find a street or neighborhood that doesn't have at least one "jack-o-lantern" in late October and for many of us, carving pumpkins is a fun and traditional way to enjoy Halloween! I think that I had a Halloween pumpkin from the time that I was three up through my teenage years. It started out with my mom carving faces onto my pumpkins, then as I got older she would carve the face that I designed, until the year that I was old enough to carve my own pumpkin, an exciting event since it was a tradition I so enjoyed.
How do you like to carve your pumpkins? Or perhaps you prefer to paint pumpkins or adorn them in some other way? The possibilities are endless! Just look at these cool pumpkins:
What is your favorite?
Photo by pheonix76.
What do you prefer?
Time to get carving!
Whether you want to carve a detailed scene, a spooky face, or an adorable smiling pumpkin, your choices are endless with these easy-to-use kits!
How to carve a pumpkin using patterned stencils - A how-to video
A crunchy treat!
After you've carved your Halloween pumpkin, don't forget to save some seeds and roast them! Of course, like everything else, roasted pumpkin seeds aren't for everybody, but they can make a delicious (and nutritious) snack, if you're so inclined. You can season them in an endless number of ways to suit your tastes, for a basic recipe click here or if you want to try something a little different, click here for a sweet and spicy recipe!
Fun Jack-o'-lantern from several years ago
What's the deal with Halloween and pumpkins?
Why is a carved pumpkin called a Jack-o'-lantern anyway?!
We know that pumpkin carving is a traditional Halloween activity, but have you ever wondered why? Where did this practice originate and why is it called a Jack-o'-lantern? I hope to (briefly) shed some light on the history of pumpkin carving, which is surrounded by folklore and superstition. All of which is fascinating to learn about!
Why is a carved pumpkin called a Jack-o'-lantern?
According to this article, the name "Jack-o'-lantern" has its origin in the term ignis fatuus or will-o'-the-wisp. In traditional English folklore, dating back to as early as the 1660s, ignis fatuus refers to the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs. The term Jack-o'-lantern was first applied to carved pumpkins in American English in 1834. The name Jack arose from folklore that involved a man named Jack who struck a deal with "the Devil," also known as the story of Stingy Jack.
Why do we carve pumpkins as a Halloween tradition?
As stated in this article, traditionally vegetables or fruits were carved as lanterns on All Hallows' Eve and were used as an offering (or "treat") to ward off roaming evil spirits or placate them to prevent them from fiddling with property or livestock (to play a "trick"). These lanterns were placed on door steps to protect a particular household. This tradition has its roots (pardon my pun) in Scotland and Ireland, where a turnip was usually the carved vegetable. In England, a beet was used. The tradition migrated to the US with the settlers from Europe, and pumpkins were used because they were larger and easier to carve.
Interestingly, in the US, carving pumpkins was first associated with the harvest season and was often incorporated into Thanksgiving festivities.
Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons
Story of how the name "Jack-o'-lantern" originated
What is a pumpkin?
In North America, a pumpkin is a guard-like squash that is (most commonly) the fruit of plants in the genus Cucurbita. There are many different cultivars, which make for a nice variety of shapes and colors, although orange pumpkins are traditionally used for Halloween. Cultivars in the genus Cucurbita are native to North America. Click here for more pumpkin information!
So, what do you think about Jack-o'-lanterns?
Do you like carving pumpkins for Halloween?
All About Pumpkins ! - Informative pages about pumpkins and Halloween:
- All About Pumpkins
Carving, varieties, winter squash, facts, growing, history -- this website has it all!
- University of Illinois : Pumpkins and More
Another informative page all about pumpkins, including recipes, history, varieties, and more.
- List of Pumpkin Varieties by Size
An informative list of pumpkin varieties that are listed by size.
- History Channel : Halloween Pumpkin Facts
Interesting page with history about how the pumpkin was traditionally used for Halloween and Thanksgiving in North America.
My brother's Jack-o'-lantern from a few years back!
I hope you've enjoyed my tribute to pumpkins for Halloween!