The history of pumpkin carving

Without a doubt the most recognisable symbol of Halloween is a pumpkin carved into a Jack-O-Lantern.
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.
What most people do not know is that Halloween is actually based on an ancient Celtic holiday known as Samhain, which means “summer’s end”.
It was the end of the Celtic year, starting at sundown on October 31, and going through to sundown November 1. It was a night to honour loved ones that had passed on, since the veil between their realm and ours is at its thinnest 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.
Did you know that pumpkins are not a vegetable, they are a fruit? Pumpkins, like gourds, and other varieties of squash are all members of the Cucurbitacae family, which also includes cucumbers, gherkins and melons.

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