Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Great Pumpkin

We're getting closer and closer to my favorite day and I am getting so excited.  I've always loved Halloween, perhaps even more than Christmas.  Pumpkins are a symbol of Halloween.  Every year when I was  a wee girl, my friends parents would take us to the local pumpkin farm to pick out one to carve on Halloween.  It was always such a difficult choice for there were pumpkins as far as the eye could see, and I just HAD to find the perfect one.  

The pumpkins of the 1950s and early '60s were pretty much standard with triangles for the eyes and nose and a mouth with crooked teeth.  Nothing fancy.  We just carved the face and stuck the lit candle inside.   Everyone in the neighborhood had one, and on Halloween eve, it was quite a sight to behold.  We didn't have to worry about rowdy teenagers smashing them back then.  

The carving of Halloween pumpkins, also know as Jack-o-Lanterns, is a very old Pagan custom which dates back to the days of the ancient Druids. They believed that the spirits of the dead returned to the world of the living on this night.  Most of these disembodied spirits were deceased family members or friends who were welcomed , but some of the spirits were of an evil nature and greatly feared.  So, for protection, candlelit faces were carved out of turnips and carried as lanterns from house to house to scare away the evil spirits.

There is also a bit of folklore surrounding the term Jack-O-Lantern. It originates from an old Irish lore about a man named  'Stingy Jack'.The tale involves Jack making deal after deal with the devil, tricking him with the temptation of the man's soul, only to wind up being tricked himself by the prankster.  After Jack died, he wasn't allowed into heaven so the devil got revenge by not allowing Jack into hell. He's roamed for all eternity, with only a burning coal inside a turnip to light his way.

Pumpkins were a mainstay in Native American culture and in fact, the entire pumpkin was used not only for food, but Native Americans would also make mats and other products from the shell. Pumpkin-like seeds dating back about 8,000 years have been found in Mexico. These seeds, which are rich in many vitamins such as magnesium, phosphorous, protein, niacin, and iron, were once used for medicine treatments. The seeds were used to treat intestinal infections and a variety of kidney problems. The flowers were used topically on cuts and abrasions.The Apache baked pumpkin blossoms into cakes; the Navajo used them as a seasoning for soup. The Iroquois Indians believed corn, beans and pumpkins were a gift from their Sun God. 

Sadly, I no longer see pumpkins as I once did.  Not only do most people in my neighborhood not celebrate Halloween due to religious convictions, but those who do are afraid to put them out for show.  Here in the city, Jack-o-Lanterns attract rebellious and destructive teens who take pleasure in destroying the pleasure of others, so people don't carve pumpkins anymore.  

For those of us who grew up in the 50's or  60's, Halloween and Peanuts go together almost as much as older traditions such as trick-or-treating and outrageous costumes, thanks to the beloved 1966 TV special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.   Charlie Brown is thrilled that at last he's been invited to a costume party, and  Linus makes preparations for the arrival of The Great Pumpkin, whom he believes will rise from the pumpkin patch and deliver presents to all the good little boys and girls. 

Halloween is a such magickal night.  You can just feel the electricity in the air.  I think  Linus said it best, "I believe in the Great Pumpkin."   So do I, Linus, so do I.


  1. -chuckle- I love it, that a lot of folks celebrate this holiday, without *noticing* the Pagan origins. -grin- Same with lots of things, attached to the usual celebration of Christmas. Like Trees. -giggles-

    Things just kind of sneak-in-on lots of people. Without their noticing. -chuckle- I'm nasty, aren't I? >,-)

    But, I do not like pictures of Witches, as old, ugly, hags, etc. Brrrrrrrr... Just look at the sweet, precious depiction of a little girl Witch, on your Background. THAT is nice!

    Gentle hugs,
    "October, here’s to you. Here’s to the heady aroma of the frost-kissed apples, the wine-y spell of ripened grapes, the wild-as-the-wind smell of hickory nuts and the nostalgic whiff of that first wood smoke."
    ~ Ken Weber

  2. Good morning Mary......I love it when fellow bloggers celebrate and love Halloween. I'm not really a Halloween gal anymore myself as it is so hot and unlike autumn in AZ that we really have very few trick or treaters any more. In fact.....I bet I can count on two hands the number of children who have come to our door in the last l5 years. SAD.....Sad....

    Have a wonderful day,


  3. I LOVE The Great Pumpkin!!!! My favorite peanuts show. such faith Linus has. I am looking forward to my non-city halloween. I understand about the city and how it just seems to steal your soul. Nothing, it seems, whether it's holidays or disasters seems to stop the day to day there.

    I hope you get to put a pumpkin in your window this year!

  4. First of all I love this page, it is awesome !!!
    I am trying a new browser, Mozilla Firefox so I hope this resolves the problem.

    I too have a great love of Halloween. I remember trick or treating like it was yesterday. Back in
    those days we were lucky enough to get homemade
    candy apples and fudge and all kinds of caramel corn and fresh baked cookies.

    We did NOT have to have anyone sift through our
    bags looking for razor blades either. Personally
    I think those horror stories were circulated by the corporations who stood to make millions on each and every holiday.

    I love dressing up even as an adult and decorating the front porch for all the children.
    Yes, I am just a big kid at heart. I used to even dress up at work every Halloween for the patients and they loved it.

    I enjoyed reading the history of how certain Halloween traditions started.

    Happy Halloween Mary

    hope this posts...

    crossing my fingers


  5. Oh, what a wonderful post, brings back wonderful memories from celebrating Halloween in Yonkers, NY. In those days we all made up our own costumes, there were five kids in our house and not a ton of money, but boy oh boy, we had a grand time. Yonkers even had a ranga muffin parade on Halloween night. I'm in Florida now (yuck) and it's so hot here even mid-October. But, I have to say we had a bunch of kids last year so I'm looking forward to giving out treats when they arrive at my door. I have to have hope that somehow, someway we can capture those wonderful times for the new kids ... I do believe in the power of good intentions and positive thinking (kinda like spells and magic, tee hee) so who knows. Love and Light, Peace and Abundance for ALL !

  6. Yippee...
    Who hoo

    It posted, I am elated.
    I was hopeful when I actually got the
    type the letter thingie to appear.

    no more poof/vanishing oomments


    hugs Sharon