The most common of the Winter Squashes, the Pumpkin has long been associated with Halloween. This orange/yellow squash has bright orange flesh that is sweet in flavour and fibrous in texture and rich in vitamins and minerals.
The practice of carving Halloween pumpkins or Jack O’Lanterns can be traced back to an Irish myth about Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain. When Jack died he was refused entry to both Heaven and Hell and forced to roam earth for eternity. In order to keep away Jack’s wandering soul, people began to carve demonic faces out of turnips. When many of the Irish emigrated to America, they began to make Jack O’Lanterns out of native pumpkins.
The origins of Halloween began with the Celtic festival of Samhain, the Celtic New Year, celebrated on 1st November to mark the end of the Summer and Harvest time, the light half of the year associated with Life, and the beginning of Winter, the darker months and Death. It was believed that ghosts could return to the earth on this day. To ward off these spirits people made big fires and wore special clothes of animal skins to disguise themselves from marauding spirits.
Then in AD 609 the Catholic Church moved the celebration of All Saints Day or All Hallows Day to 1st November. In AD 1000 the Church added All Souls Day on 2nd November and All Hallows Eve to the night of 31st October. The folklore of Stingy Jack was incorporated into All Hallows Eve or Halloween and we have been carving pumpkins ever since!