The tradition of carving pumpkins goes back quite a ways to a time before America had been settled by the first European colonists. In Western Europe — specifically Ireland and similar regions — the Celts celebrated the end of the year on October 31st at sundown and the festivities — known as Samhain — did not end until sundown on what we know to be November 1st. It was considered to be the most magical night of the year when the veil between the lands of the living and the dead was at its thinnest. The pagan peoples carved turnips and gourds, turning them into jack o’ lanterns, which invited in the souls of their deceased ancestors and loved ones, while at the same time protecting their homes and families from lurking malicious or trickster spirits who take the opportunity to bother the living for their own amusement. Originally, inside the gourds and turnips was placed a piece of burning coal to light up the designs and faces carved. Eventually, the burning coal was replaced with the candles we are familiar with today.
Halloween Pumpkins & Jack O Lanterns
As more and more descendants of the Celtic Druids and assorted pagans traveled across the sea and inhabited what would eventually become the United States, they brought their traditions with them, and by the 1800s, Halloween became a frequently celebrated day by many people, as it continues to be even now, centuries later. Instead of the previous vegetables that had been carved, they began using pumpkins, which were larger and heartier than the turnips and gourds that grew very commonly in the Old Country.
The point of the pumpkin carving has since been set aside, leaving people to carve pumpkins simply for decoration and fun. Not only is it a great way to spend part of a day with family members both young and old, but it can be an enjoyable craft to do by oneself. It also gives the opportunity for those of the artistic persuasion to create a masterpiece befitting the holiday.
Halloween Pumpkin Images & Photos
Typical pumpkin carving involves slicing a section of the top of the pumpkin off in order to reach the insides. (Others tend to cut off part of the bottom so the pumpkin can sit flat instead of lean to one side of the bottom isn’t symmetrical.) The seeds and guts of the pumpkin are removed — so make sure the hole cut out of the top is big enough to get inside comfortably to scoop it all out. Some people are fond of putting the seeds on a baking tray and baking them to make a wonderful pumpkin seed treat. Those who are not fond of baked pumpkin seeds generally toss them away as they are very messy and not good for much aside from eating.
The carving itself is typically a face, often goofy or scary, featuring gap-teethed creatures and interesting sets of eyes. Others carve out scenes, depicting mischievous cats, ghosts, and even the grim reaper himself.
An important factor in picking the right pumpkin is to find one that is not bruised or cut. Avoid carrying the pumpkin around by its stem, as it is not the most sturdy of handles and can easily be removed from the pumpkin, depending on how much weight is pulling down on the stem itself.
With a little attention to detail and a good cutting knife, it is possible to make a beautiful pumpkin — or even a dreadful one, depending on the intent of the carving is done. Regardless of the results, pumpkin carving is a great way to celebrate a holiday that goes back several centuries. So enjoy your Halloween pumpkin, and remember to put down many layers of newspaper to avoid making a huge mess because having a good time is great, but having a giant mess to clean up is not much fun.
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