Jack O’ Lantern . . . a FALL tradition!

by Sherri Kukuchka

To me, FALL offers the best of our four seasons. The smell of fallen leaves. The Endless Mountains bursting with shades of oranges, reds, and yellows. The sounds of a high school football game echoing through town. The taste of fresh local apple cider. And best of all, the glow from a carved jack o’ lantern!

Jack o’lanterns are the epitome of FALL to me. My memories of actually carving pumpkins as a child consist of watching my Dad use a very sharp kitchen knife to dangerously attempt a traditional few triangles for eyes and a jagged toothy smile . . . while I begged for a chance to carve my own. At that time, we did not have available the amazing kid-friendly tools for carving that we have today! Nevertheless, even as a child I certainly enjoyed lighting up our pumpkins each night to see their glowing faces on our front porch in the woods.

Little kid with Halloween pumpkin

As adults, my husband and I have always enjoyed carving pumpkins to display for our town trick-or-treaters . . . and hundreds more that we carve for our annual Pumpkin House event at Creekside Gardens every October. I have more than made up for my lack of childhood carving time. For me, October is all about carving pumpkins.

Now, as far as lighting pumpkins goes, I am a bit of a traditionalist. There is nothing that compares to the flickering flame of a candle. Three to five tea lights per pumpkin is my preferred method . . . although, when you need to light a display of over 500 pumpkins (and quickly!), well, strings of lights are most effective. Also, the task of keeping all those pumpkins lit for five hours each night is a tough one . . . especially when you throw in a few pranksters who delight in blowing out our tea lights just for fun. Grrrr. But, whether lit by candles or electricity, those glowing orange lanterns still warm my heart.

Did you know that the tradition of carving jack o’lanterns originated in Ireland? They carved potatoes, turnips, and beets to ward off evil spirits in the fall. Irish settlers to the new colonies discovered our pumpkins and found them to be the ultimate palette for their traditional fall carvings . . . jack o’ lantern as we know them were born! Here are a few more interesting pumpkin facts:

Jack O’ Lantern
Group of candle lit Halloween pumpkins in park on fall evening
  • Pumpkins are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere. They have been grown in North America for five thousand years.
  • Pumpkins are low in calories and fat, and high in fiber and potassium. They are a good source of vitamins A and B, and also protein and iron.
  • Over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin are produced each year in the U.S.
  • The top pumpkin producing states are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California.
  • Pumpkins are technically a fruit!
  • Every single part of a pumpkin is edible. You can eat the skin, leaves, flowers, pulp, seeds, and even the stem!
  • Every pumpkin contains about 500 seeds!!

So, gather around with friends and family and carve up some happiness this FALL! Host a carving party of your own and CREATE!

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