The Great Pumpkin Rises Again – Are You Ready?
Who can resist the security-blanketed Linus as he eagerly awaits the arrival of the Great Pumpkin? It has forever changed the way that American children view this hearty ball of orange pulp.
What other garden-variety gourd could evoke such loyalty? Can you imagine any child forgoing the traditional candy grubbing trick-or-treat activity to faithfully wait for some strange hybrid jack-o-lantern to rise up out of the most sincere pumpkin patch on Halloween night and deliver toys to all the believing children?
Pumpkins are special that way, especially this time of year. It’s pumpkin season!
While pumpkins are native to North America, it’s my ancestry homeland of Ireland that generates most of Halloween’s pumpkin traditions. For example, jack o’lanterns originated in Ireland to stave off evil spirits. Initially, the lantern carvings were made from turnips, rutabagas, and potatoes – vegetables that were plentiful back in their homeland. The carved faces represented demons intended to frighten away evil spirits. Eventually, people placed candles in the hollowed-out vegetables to keep away the ghosts on the Samhain (summer’s end) holiday. It was said that if a demon were to encounter something as fiendish-looking as themselves that they’d run away in terror, thus sparing the houses dwellers from the ravages of dark entities.
When the Irish immigrated to America they brought this Halloween tradition with them. However, they could not find many turnips to carve into jack o’lanterns, but they did find an abundance of pumpkins. Pumpkins have been an essential part of Halloween celebrations ever since. That’s how the tradition of putting the carved creations on front porches began.
During pumpkin season we also hear about farmers growing extraordinary-sized gourds. Growing big pumpkins is a big-time, serious hobby. Top prize money for the biggest giant pumpkin is as much as $25,000 at fall festivals. The Colorado state record was broken at the 2013 weigh-off. An amazing 1,478 pounds grown by Joe Scherber won top prize at the Annual Giant Pumpkin Festival held at Jared’s Nursery Gift and Garden Center in Littleton, Colo.
Of course, during this in between time of Halloween and Thanksgiving, thoughts usually turn from carving jack-o-lanterns to eating pumpkin pie! Either way, carve them up! Bake them up! Eat them up! It’s pumpkin season!