A Short History of the Pumpkin
Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North
America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 7000 to 5500
References to pumpkins date back many centuries. The name
pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is
"pepon." "Pepon" was changed by the French into "pompon."
The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." American colonists changed
"pumpion" into "pumpkin."
Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their
diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove
them into mats. Indians would also roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat
them. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and pumpkin
soon became a staple in their diets. As today, early settlers used them in a wide variety
of recipes from desserts to stews and soups. The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have
occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled
it with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying
Pumpkins and Halloween
The origin of Halloween dates back at least 3,000 years to
the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced "sow-ain"). The festival was held
starting at sundown on October 31st and lasted until sundown on November 1st. It was
similar to the modern practice of the New Years celebration.
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.
Samhain was not the name of a "Lord of the Dead",
no historical evidence has ever been found to back this up, it was simply the name of the
festival and meant "Summer's End". It was believed that the souls of the dead
were closest to this world and was the best time to contact them to say good bye or ask
for assistance. It was also a celebration of the harvest. It is still treated as such
today by those who practice Wicca or other nature based religions. It has absolutely
nothing to do with satan, who was a creation of the Christian church.
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. Halloween didn't really catch on big in this country until the
late 1800's and has been celebrated in many ways ever since!