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The History Of Pumpkin Carving And Jack O’Lanterns, By Your Local Illinois Pumpkin Patch

Here at Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm, we’ve got Halloween and autumnal rides and attractions to spare. For nearly 40 years, we’ve been adding on to our once humble pumpkin patch. These days, thousands of people come out to take advantage of the crisp fall air, great rates, 8 unlimited rides, delicious seasonal food, and much more. This year is set to be the biggest and best in our 37 year history, so it’s one you just can’t miss. But no matter how many train rides, pig races, or spooky haunted barns we add on, people still can’t get enough of one of Halloween’s richest traditions, pumpkin carving.

Our Local Pumpkin Patch

Before we get into today’s topic, which is the history of pumpkin carving, we want you to know right off the bat that we’ve got a variety of pumpkin types you can get for very affordable prices here at our just-outside-of-Chicago pumpkin patch. Choose from orange pumpkins, which are 39 cents per pound, pie pumpkins ($2.50 each), white pumpkins, small pumpkins, big pumpkins, weird looking pumpkins, and even pumpkins that prefer to be called “punkins”. And hey, we aren’t here to judge, so that’s fine with us. You can rent a wheelbarrow to haul your load of pumpkins for just a buck. And keep in mind we try to make it easy on you by having a huge selection of pumpkin carving supplies, tools, kits, accessories, and much more in the Halloween shop, which can be found just above the previously mentioned Haunted Barn.

Now that you know where to find perfect pumpkins for either carving or baking, let’s talk about the origin of pumpkin carving and other fun stuff like jack-o-lanterns. Read on if you’d like to learn a little bit of something that you could impress your friends with the next time pumpkin carving comes up. ‘Tis the season!

The Great Pump King

The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word Pepon which roughly translates to “large melon”. The word was used by the French and English and over time morphed into the word we use today, pumpkin. Pretty exciting, right? Maybe not… But in our opinion, it would be much more interesting to learn about some ancient king named “Pump”, who had an affinity for squash and spooky stuff. However, we aren’t in the business of rewriting history. Luckily, the history of pumpkin carving and jack-o-lanterns is pretty interesting, so let’s explore that.

What many people don’t know about Halloween is that it has Celtic origins. Called Samhain, meaning the end of summer, the ancient Celts used to celebrate the end of their year on October 31st. Their traditions honored loved ones who had passed away. The reason for doing so on this night in particular was because they believe the layer, if you will, between the realm of the deceased and the living was the thinnest on this night.

But with that ability to be close with the dead came the fear of evil spirits coming to haunt, spook, and do otherwise unsavory things to the living. As pumpkins are indigenous to the western hemisphere, the ancient Celts didn’t even know they existed, so they obviously didn’t use them. Instead, they used gourds or turnips of some kind to protect against evil spirits. They would hollow them out, not unlike we do today, and use a bit of coal for illumination.

When Irish settlers came to North America, they brought their traditions and beliefs along with them. What they encountered there was probably what they thought were the most plump pseudo-gourds they’d ever seen, pumpkins. Much easier to carve, the settlers found the pumpkins to be much easier to work with and carve out.

The Spooky Legend Of Stingy Jack

Above is the generally accepted history of pumpkin carving and how the practice came to the western hemisphere. The Irish have a more specific tale about jack-o-lanterns, though. The tale that has been told is that Stingy Jack, in all his wisdom, asked an evil spirit if it wanted to have a drink. Stingy Jack asked the spirit to use its powers to turn into a coin so they could order a drink or two. Once the spirit obliged, Jack decided to just keep the coin in his pocket right next to a silver cross, so that the spirit couldn’t take its regular shape again.

Jack eventually freed the spirit, under conditions that wouldn’t claim his soul upon Jack’s demise, and also that the spirit wouldn’t bother Jack for just one year (we guess that’s why his nickname wasn’t ‘Good-Negotiator Jack’). However, Jack, with all of his cunning, tricked the spirit a second time by somehow convincing the spirit to climb a tree to pick a piece of fruit. Jack then carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s trunk, which meant that the spirit couldn’t come down for 10 more years!

To make a long story short (too late), Jack died shortly after this occurrence. God would not let him into heaven because of his inappropriate behavior of late, and neither did the spirit let him enter his domain for the same reason. The spirit cursed him to roam the night with only a bit of coal for light. Jack put the coal into a hollowed-out turnip, and has been bopping around every since. The Irish call him Jack of the Lantern, which eventually turned into “Jack O’Lantern”. Save that one for a campfire ghost story!  

Stop By And Get Your Pumpkins For Carving!

Here at Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm, we clearly have a passion for all things autumn and Halloween. Now that our pumpkin patch and the rest of our farm is open this season, you’ve got to stop by and enjoy the festivities. It’s time to make your family’s annual fall tradition by having a great day filled with fantastic food, exciting rides, and live animals to watch and even pet. This year, we offer a full twenty days for general admission being under $10. That’s the most we’ve ever done! Check out the days in which we do right here. But whenever you stop by, we hope you enjoy yourselves and pick up a pumpkin or 5 for carving and pie-making!