Pumpkin Carving History Reveals Meaningful Tradition


Pumpkins and gourds are the perfect festive decoration for you porch steps. (photo by Sarah Gornatti)

It’s that time of the year again, everyone is picking out their halloween costumes, the weather is turning cold, the leaves are changing, and pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps.

The tradition of carving pumpkins started hundreds of years ago in Ireland. The trend started with a story of a man named Stingy Jack. Jack played tricks on everyone, even the Devil himself. One day, Jack convinced the Devil to climb up a tree and once he did, Jack placed crosses at the bottom of the tree. This meant the Devil couldn’t get down since he can’t touch crosses. Jack made the Devil promise not to take his soul once he died and the Devil agreed in order to get down from the tree. When Jack died, he was rejected from heaven from being a terror on earth, and was also rejected from hell due to his promise with the Devil. This led Jack to carve out a turnip and use a flame from hell to light his way through the eternal darkness.

The Irish started carving out turnips and gourds and placing them on their doorsteps to ward of Jack and the evil spirits that followed. Once the Irish started immigrating to America, they realized that pumpkins were easier to carve which started a tradition that would last for years to come.  

The best carved pumpkins start with a great idea. Pumpkins could have teeth made from candy corn, hair made from pumpkin pulp, masks to hide their identity, googly eyes, plastic snakes for hair (like medusa), and so much more. There are so many options when it comes to carving pumpkins, it can be scary, hairy, or maybe named Barry. The best part about it is it’s totally up to the creator!

Although coming up with ideas can be fun, it can be difficult to execute them. Sometimes it’s best to get a carving kit, but it can also be fun to do it freehand! When carving without a guide, its best to use a curved, boning knife to carve the pumpkin. Also, when cutting off the top of the pumpkin, the best method is to cut at an angle in order to prevent the lid from caving in. Pumpkin carving is an enjoyable activity that the whole family can participate in this fall!