Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Hallowed History...

Cute Pumpkin graphic

The jack o' lantern has a long history that originates all the way back to around 800 B.C. when Celtic society would bring home an ember from the communal bonfire at the end of their Samhain celebration. They carried these embers in hollowed-out turnips which created a lantern that resembles the modern day jack o' lantern. However, the turnips that they used are not the turnips we know today, rather than being white and purple skinned- its yellow and purple, they are between half a foot and a foot in diameter big and known in English as a 'swede'.

Such Celtic traditions remained a significant part of the national culture in 18th century Ireland and the direct predecessor of jack 0' lanterns comes from a very popular character from Irish folklore. The tale is about a man named Jack, who was notorious for being a drunkard and trickster. He was said to have tricked Satan into climbing up a tree for some apples and then he carved crosses all around the trunk so he could not climb down. Jack then made a deal with the devil that if he would never tempt him again-he'd let him down the tree. When Jack eventually died, he was turned away from Heaven due to his life of sin and, in keeping with their agreement, the Devil wouldn't take him either. He was cursed to travel forever as a spirit in limbo with an ember placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to light his way through the darkness.

Using a turnip became a very popular Halloween decoration in Ireland and Scotland a few hundred years ago, using them to ward off Jack and other spirits. Jack o' lantern's finally made their way to the states in the 19th century when Irish families began to immigrate over bringing their traditions with them. They discovered pumpkins here and began to use them instead since they were much easier to carve.

References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was nasalized by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin."

.Pumpkin Facts.

* Pumpkins have been grown in North America for five thousand years. They are indigenous to the western hemisphere.
* Pumpkins range in size from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds.
* The largest pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,140 pounds.
* Pumpkins are 90 percent water.
* Pumpkin flowers are edible.
* Native Americans called pumpkins "isqoutm" squash.
* Pumpkins are fruits. A pumpkin is a type of squash and is a member of the gourd family (Cucurbitacae), which include squash, cucumbers, gherkins, and melons.
* Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
* Pumpkin seeds should be planted between the last week of May and the middle of June. They take between 90 and 120 days to grow and are picked in October when they are bright orange in color. Their seeds can be saved to grow new pumpkins the next year.

.Jack-O-Lantern Tips.

* After carving pumpkin, coat inside and all cut holes with petroleum jelly (slows shriveling/drying out process).
* Freeze your candles before you put them in the pumpkin, they will last longer.
* Or use battery light or glow stick instead of candles to increase life (candles are much hotter).
* Sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on underside of lid when using candles (smells like pumpkin pie).

Until next time...

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