A mosaic of warm colors covers the sidewalk and the trees. A hearty crunch fills my ears as I walk through my neighborhood, inhaling a deep breath of the crisp air. Long gone are the heavy, too-bright days of summer. We’re currently in the coziest of seasons, and I am taking it all in. Big sweaters, Uggs with every outfit, pumpkin-flavored anything, any chance I get. I’m rewatching my favorite fall movies and TV shows (I’m on season 6 of my Gilmore Girls rewatch, those who get it, get it).
I relish the indulgences of seasonal activities. In addition to my cozy baking, candle lighting, and TV watching, I’ve done something I haven’t done since I was little; carved a pumpkin. I don’t remember the last time I carved a pumpkin before today, and I don’t know why I ever stopped!
As I walked into the farmer’s market to pick my perfect pumpkin, childlike excitement filled my body as I bounded toward the towers of orange, yellow, and white. I took my time choosing, admiring, and sizing up each shape and color, calculating which one would make the ultimate jack-o’-lantern. After being drawn to my little pumpkin baby (just the right shade of orange, a little round, reasonable carving size) I paid a mere $5 and brought her home.
Sitting around the table with my friends, elbow-deep in gooey, orange guts, I started to wonder where this tradition came from, and why I stopped doing it into adulthood.
Originating from an Irish folktale, jack-o’-lanterns were actually first carved into turnips.
According to history.com, a man nicknamed Stingy Jack made a deal with the Devil that he didn’t honor. Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. When the bill came, Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink. Ever the conniving fellow, Stingy Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin. The Devil agreed, and Jack placed the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross. This angered the Devil. Jack made a bargain with the Devil, saying he would release him as long as the Devil swore to not bother Jack for one year and that he wouldn’t claim his soul when he died. A year later, Jack made another deal with the Devil when trying to escape him. This time, he got the Devil to promise to leave him alone for another 10 years. When Stingy Jack died, the Devil banished him into the night with nothing but a burning coal. On his travels, Jack found a carved-out turnip and put the burning coal inside. The Irish called him “Jack of the Lantern.”
Each Halloween, to scare Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits away, people in Ireland and Scotland would carve ghoulish faces into turnips and place them in their windows. In the U.S., this translated to pumpkins, as they are native and abundant in the area.
History lesson aside, at what age did we stop engaging in seasonal traditions? Obviously trick or treating cannot last forever, at some point, it would get creepy and stop being cute. I love dressing up for Halloween and hope that love never fades. And I like to bake and go to fall festivals and watch old movies. So why would I ever deny myself of something that I enjoyed so much as a child? The whole process made me so happy. Picking the pumpkin, drawing the design, getting all the guts out, poorly carving it. Not to mention roasting the seeds, which are a delicacy I had forgotten about. It didn’t matter if it was good or well done technically, because it was fun.
This is your sign to go spend five dollars on a pumpkin, grab a marker, a kitchen knife, a candle, and let your inner child roam free. Tap into the creativity and imagination you had as a little kid, and use your adult skills to make something little you would be in awe of. Make the most ridiculous, elaborate, childish jack-o’-lantern you can think of. Let yourself have fun.
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