The great tradition of picking a perfect pumpkin from a patch and taking it home to gut and carve. A popular activity during the fall season, especially around Halloween. A strange yet common practice among families but where did it come from and how did it become such a popular tradition?
Well you can thank the Irish potato famine and Abraham Lincoln. From 1844 to 1855 more than 1.5 million Irish people fled to America to find a better fate than starvation through the great hunger. A period of vast disease and starvation lasting from 1845 to 1849 resulting in over one million deaths. Then in 1862 during his presidency, Abraham Lincoln signed the homestead act into law allowing people to claim free land in the west. Advertisements were sent to other countries resulting in more Irish immigrants bringing the notion to America due to an old story of a guy named Jack.
Jack was a trickster who lived a hateful life, and one day he met the devil at a bar and promised his soul in exchange for a drink but never let up. When Jack died he was denied both heaven and hell, cursed to roam the dark underworld with a lit turnip. Yep, originally the Irish hollowed out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes, and beets. After immigrating they found pumpkins to be easier to hollowed out and switched.
But what does that have to do with Halloween? Well, as some may know, Halloween is based Celtic festival Samhain, a celebration in ancient Britain and Ireland. So when both moved they brought the tradition along, putting various types of foods in their windows with carved faces to scare wandering spirits.