Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Jack-o-Lantern: A brief history.

     Have you ever stopped to wonder why you carve a scary face into that pumpkin every October, besides the fact that it’s fun? No? Well, here’s why:
     The story of the jack-o-lantern comes originally from Ireland. There once was a man called “Stingy Jack” and he was a dirty trickster. There are several versions of how he did it, but somehow he struck a bargain with the devil that he would not take Jack’s soul for a year. When Jack died an old man, Heaven wouldn’t have him and the Devil was still angry that he’d been tricked into the bargain and wouldn’t let him in either. Jack was left to wander between Heaven and Hell. He asked the devil how he was supposed to see because it was so dark and the devil laughingly tossed him a burning ember from the fires of hell. This Jack put into a carved-out turnip that he’d had in his pocket. Thus “Jack of the lantern” wandered for eternity. On All Hallows Eve, when souls like Jack’s were said to wander the earth, the superstitious Irish would place carved potatoes and other vegetables with candles on their window sills and doorways to scare away these spirits from their homes. It was only when the tradition came to America with Irish immigrants did the vegetable change to the larger, more easily carved pumpkin, Cucurbita pepo- which was native to the Americas.

Random Pumpkin Facts:
• The  largest pumpkin ever grown (on record) weighed 1,140 pounds
• Pumpkins are members of the squash family and are fruits.
• Pumpkins were once used to cure freckles and snake bites.

Jessica Watters, GCLP                                Horticulture Technician, Chattahoochee Technical College


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