Pumpkins are everywhere at the moment. A fruit, most commonly orange in colour when ripe, A pumpkin is pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes cucumbers, gherkins, and melons.
In Autumn Pumpkins are a popular food, but it is possible that your experience with them starts and ends with Carving them for Halloween. The flesh, however, can be cooked and served in many ways, and even the seeds can be roasted and eaten as a snack.
A pumpkin carved into a jack-o-lantern is without a doubt the most recognizable symbol of Halloween. But what are the origins of this activity?
For most of the general population it is known as Halloween and is a night for dressing up, telling ghost stories, having spooky parties, trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving. However, Halloween is actually based on an ancient Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced "sow wan"), which means "summer's end".
It was the end of the Celtic year, starting at sundown on October 31st and going through to sundown November 1st. This was a night to honour loved ones that had passed on, as it was believed that the gate between their realm and ours is at it's most open on that night.
Celebrated for centuries by the Celts of old, Witches and many other nature based religions, it is the most magical night of the year.
It is the Witches' New Year, and the Last Harvest. Although the religious significance of it has passed for the general public, Halloween is a "magical" night for all!
On this magical night, glowing jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or gourds, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones, but also to act as protection against malevolent spirits.
Burning lumps of coal were used inside as a source of light, later to be replaced by candles.
When European settlers, particularly the Irish, arrived in America they found the native pumpkin to be larger, easier to carve and seemed the perfect choice for jack-o-lanterns.
Pumpkins are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were completely unknown in Europe before the time of Columbus.