About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The origin of pumpkins and Jack O'Lanterns

Pumpkins, an orange fruit harvested in October, go hand in hand with the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for large melon which is pepon but American colonists changed it eventually into pumpkin.

The origin of pumpkins is not known definitively, although they are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico. Today pumpkins are grown all around the world for a variety of reasons ranging from food to ornamental sales.

The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.

The jack-o-lanterns originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did, Jack put the coin into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack freed the Devil eventually, under the condition that should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.

Jack died soon after, but God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. Immigrants brought the tradition to the United States but found that pumpkins, a native fruit, made perfect Jack O'Lanterns.

Sources :
-          The History Channel: http://www.history.com/topics/pumpkin-facts
-          Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpkin 

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