The world is rich in all sorts of holidays and customs that imply so many strange, funny and even odd things to do. Browse the web a bit and many unusual customs will be displayed. Different countries, different traditions. Many such customs have interesting roots and stories behind them. Have you ever thought of why we carve pumpkins on Halloween, for instance? It seems there’s a legend behind it and the popular custom is not a recent invention or some whim but it comes with a cool a legend.
Pumpkin Carving Origins
Although it might seem a random and even unexplained thing to do, carving pumpkins for Halloween is actually rooted in Celtic folklore and it involves an Irish man known as Stingy Jack. According to the legend, Stingy Jack invited Devil out for a drink and when the time came to pay the bill, he tricked the Devil to pay for both of them, which only stirred the fury of Hell.
Unfortunately, the second time he tricks the Devil, he ends up dying. Since he had a dose of Evil but was not Lucifer’s friend, Stingy Jack was turned back at both the gates of heaven and hell. It was this that made Stingy Jack carve an o’lantern from a turnip and lump of burning coal to help him wander through darkness and to guide his soul.
When sent back to Earth, Stingy Jack carried only this burning piece of coal set inside of a carved turnip being forced to wander the earth forever with this dim light. Thus, the 19th century Irishmen started to carve pumpkins and other vegetables and place them outside their home in order to keep the Stingy Jack’s wandering spirit away from them. Hence the scary faces people carve. They used almost any vegetable that could be carved, beet, potatoes, turnips, gourds, and more.
When it Started
The tradition was done specifically for All Hallows’ Eve since it was then that, according to the legend, the spirits of the dead could wander the living. Later, this tradition was brought to America by the Irish immigrants who found pumpkins growing in abundance on the new continent. Halloween has come to be one of the most popular traditions and special days. It has turned into a big business as well, U.S. farmers growing over a billion pounds of pumpkins a year.
We now buy all sorts of plastic Jack-o’-Lanterns in case we can’t carve a real pumpkin. Still, many of us seize the day to spend time with family and have fun giving all sorts of scary faces to the pumpkins we use to decorate our place. You could try something really original this year and carve something else than a pumpkin. Try one of the vegetables Irishmen used to carve back in the days. If you want to stick to the old and popular pumpkin, though, you could keep in mind the following steps in order to make sure the results are the ones you had in mind.
How to Carve a Halloween Pumpkin
You will most probably find your pumpkin at a local farmer’s market or a pumpkin patch. Buy shortly before Halloween since they will rotten after a week or so. Choose different shapes and sizes if you want to have a more varied décor and make sure you pick the ones that are free of bruises and cuts for great results. You will know that a pumpkin is ripe if you thump on its skin and you get a hollow sound. It is best to select a pumpkin with a flat base as such pumpkins are better to be displayed and placed on the ground.
You should draft the scary face before you actually begin cutting. You can go for the usual spooky design or you can even draw a cat or a bat. Search the web for inspirational designs or unleash your creative side and go for something original. Once you’ve drafted the design, you can start carving the pumpkin by cutting a lid that will allow you to remove the pulp. You can go for a circle, square or star-shaped lid. Remove all the seeds and filling with a large spoon and make as much as space as possible. This way more light will shine through it.
Once you’ve removed the seeds, you can start carving by following the lines you’ve drafted. Use a candle or tea light to illuminate your carved pumpkin and make sure it’s ventilated in order for the candle to burn. If your design includes large cuts or holes, it should be fine. If not, you can remove the lid entirely or cut a small vent in it. You can also opt for a modern method of illuminating the carved pumpkin, a LED light or a flashlight. Don’t let the pumpkins lit overnight or if you are away. If you opt for a candle light to illuminate them, make sure they are no inflammable items around them.