Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Pumkins are perhaps the ultimate symbol that autumn has arrived. National Pumpkin Day recognizes a favored autumn decoration and food on October 26th. Not only do they make great fall decorations, but the pumpkin also completes a variety of tasty recipes.
What many people don't know is that the pumpkin is actually a plant from the new world, like all squash, so the image of pumpkin jack-o-lanterns in front of ancient medieval homes is just plain wrong. These are an all American (And South American) plant, and the jack-o-lantern at Halloween is a distinctly New World thing.
So let's learn a little bit about the Pumpkin in honor of Pumpkin Day, starting with what the word pumpkin means. It's pretty simple, as it comes from the Greek word pepon, or 'Large Melon', but it didn't go straight to the pumpkin. First, it was pompon to the French, and then pumpion to the British. It was the Americans that finally changed the word to its present Pumpkin, and so it's been ever since! Pumpkin Day is a great opportunity to add this delicious squash to your diet, whether in the form of a traditional pumpkin pie, or a rich and savory pumpkin soup.
Pumpkins are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere. As Frenchman Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence region of North America in the 1500s, he reported finding what the French called “gros melons.” The name was translated into English as “pompions,” which has since evolved into the modern “pumpkin.”
Not only are they one of the best-known sources of beta-carotene (an antioxidant converted to vitamin A in the body), but pumpkins are loaded with fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.
Often when people think of Halloween, they think of Jack-o-Lanterns and pumpkins, and even when you're looking at that 'false medieval' imagery that's present in most fantasy games, you'll regularly see pumpkins being present, especially during Halloween events.
The Halloween connection dates back to the 1800s. The term “jack-o'-lantern” first appeared in 1837, while the idea of a carved pumpkin, specifically, originated in 1866.
Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
People across the globe are celebrating Halloween today, and its time to get spooky. The word Halloween comes from Hallowe'en, which translates to "hallowed evening" or holy evening. It is believed that Halloween traditions commenced from Celtic Harvest festivals of Samhain, while some people believe that it began independently as a Christian festival. Samhain was an observance of the end of the harvest season that means summer's end. It falls a day before All Saints' Day or All Hallows Eve, which honours the saints and martyrs, followed by All Souls Day, when the departed are remembered.
As a part of the celebrations on Halloween, people adorn spooky dresses, carve jack-o'-lanterns, light bonfires, trick-or-treat friends and family, visit haunted attractions, play pranks and narrate spooky stories. Hundreds of years ago in Ireland, Halloween tradition involved carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns in order to scare the evil spirits passing away through the Irish farms, since then it has become a vegetable synonymous to the festival, which is mostly celebrated by Americans.