We have Ireland to thank for most of our Halloween traditions. Not only did Halloween actually start in Ireland as an ancient Celtic festival, but the carving of pumpkins is also a tradition brought here from Ireland.
It was believed that on the eve of October 31st, the spirits of people who had died could return to Earth. In Ireland, they would carve faces into turnips to keep the evil spirits away. Turnips are a vegetable that are ready to harvest at the end of Fall. When people moved to the United States from Ireland, they began to use pumpkins instead of turnips; pumpkins were much easier to carve, there were more pumpkins than turnips available for harvest, and pumpkins were cheaper.
The Jack O’Lantern
The term Jack O’Lantern is believed to also come from Ireland. It is said that the name came from a story about an old farmer and gambler, named Jack Stingy. Legend has it that Jack tricked the devil more than a few times. When Jack died, he was not allowed to go to heaven and the devil did not want him in hell. So, the devil sent Jack off with some burning coal, which Jack put in his carved-out turnip.
The story goes on to say that the spirit of Jack of the Lantern has just been roaming around earth with nowhere to go. Ever since then, people started to carve scary faces on their turnips to keep the spirit of Jack away from their homes.
The pumpkin is actually a fruit. It is part of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers and melons. The pumpkin began growing in Central America, mainly used as a food crop. Many people still use it as food today and not just for pie!
Pumpkins grow on vines and have spread all over North and South America. When people came to the Western Hemisphere from Europe, they found pumpkins to be a plentiful food source. They often sent the seeds back home, where the pumpkin became just as popular.
Kids In Kitchen
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
First you will need to prep the seeds: place the seeds that you scoop out of the pumpkin into a large bowl. Rinse with water and remove as much pumpkin as you can. Place seeds in a colander and rinse again to remove any remaining pumpkin flesh.
You could also boil the seeds in salt water for ten minutes to help with this process. Dry the seeds out by laying on a towel to remove as much water as possible.
Once your seeds are prepped and ready to go, it’s time to roast!
- Start by preheating the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Toss clean, dry seeds (about 1 ½ cups) in a mixture of two Tablespoons melted butter (or oil), salt (a pinch or two) and any other seasonings of your choice.
- Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Be sure the seeds aren’t overlapping so they turn out as crispy as possible.
Tip: For less mess, line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Check on your seeds every ten minutes, removing the baking sheet, stirring, and spreading them out again.
Tip: You can roast the seeds of any winter squash, not just pumpkin.
The Whispering House by Rebecca Wade
In this slightly scary book, Hannah learns that a young girl named Maisie, who used to live in the same house, died mysteriously 140 years ago. Hannah discovers a fairy tale book that belonged to Maisie and as she reads it, she believes that Maisie is sending Hannah messages about how she died. Hannah is determined to solve the mystery of Maisie’s death, otherwise she may never leave Hannah alone. (For ages 8-12; 246 pages)
The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz
The Ugly Pumpkin has waited the entire month of October for someone to take him home, but no one has picked him. He looks different than the other pumpkins, he is lonely, and he has no friends. He decides to leave the pumpkin patch to find a place where he will fit in better. Soon Thanksgiving arrives and he discovers the truth about himself, but it is not at all what he expected! (For ages 2-6; 40 pages)
Q. Why did the Jack O’Lantern keep forgetting things?
A. Because he was empty headed.
Q. Why do pumpkins sit by people’s doorsteps?
A. Because they have no hands to knock on the door.
Gab in Gaelic
Hear much and say little! = Eist moran agus can beagan! (aisht more-on og-us con byug-on)