With prospects of ghosts and goblins right around the corner and pumpkins alight with candles, the spookiest of seasons is upon us. One of the traditional plants associated with this season are pumpkins, or “Jack-o’-lanterns.”
Jack became “Jack of the Lantern.” This was later shortened to “Jack-o’-lantern.” From this legend came the Irish tradition of placing lighted jack-o-lanterns by doors on Halloween.
Another legend is based on the Celtic celebration of the dead. Celtic ritual believed that the souls of the dead returned on the evening before November 1. Pumpkins were lit in a celebration of the harvest and as an honoring of dead ancestors.
The first fruit that was lit and carved was actually turnips and gourds. The Irish also carved potatoes. Sometime along the way, it was discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve. European customs included the lighting of pumpkins with scary faces to ward off evil spirits.