Q:

Why are pumpkins associated with Halloween?

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Quick Answer

The practice of carving pumpkins and lighting them from within with candles for Halloween originated in Ireland with a folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Based on the story of the "Jack-o'-lantern," American children began carving their own lanterns out of New World pumpkins. The lanterns became associated with Halloween when the mayor of Atlanta decorated his home with them for a Halloween party.

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Why are pumpkins associated with Halloween?
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Full Answer

According to the folktale, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink. Not wanting to pay, he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin. However, rather than use the coin to pay for the drinks, Jack kept it for himself. Eventually Jack freed the Devil who promised not to take his soul to Hell. Instead, he gave Jack an ember that he placed in a hollowed-out turnip and carried as he walked the Earth forever.

The legend of Stingy Jack and his turnip lantern traveled to the United States with Irish immigrants. It was not long before children began making their own vegetable lanterns using pumpkins, which were plentiful in America. Over the years, children began carving faces into the pumpkin lanterns to frighten each other. Throughout the late 19th century, jack-o'-lanterns became more common as decorations at Halloween until they became part of the holiday itself.

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Related Questions

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    How do you make painted pumpkins?

    A:

    Clean your pumpkin, seal it with a multi-purpose sealer, paint and decorate as desired and seal with a matte finish spray paint. Display your pumpkin by itself or as part of a group display.

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  • Q:

    How long do pumpkins last after you carve them?

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    Pumpkins usually only last a few days after you carve them. This is due to a number of factors, such as oxidation or oxygen and simple hydration. The skin protects the inside of the pumpkin and, once carved, it lets in other such problems as fungi, bacteria, molds and insects.

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    How long do uncarved pumpkins last?

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    An uncarved pumpkin stays fresh for two to three months when stored at outdoor temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. At room temperature, a pumpkin starts to go bad after about a month.

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  • Q:

    Which vegetable was originally used to carve jack-o-lanterns?

    A:

    The seasonal practice of carving a vegetable and putting a light inside originates in Ireland as part of Celtic tradition; because pumpkins do not occur naturally in this part of the world, the turnip was the vegetable that was originally used to carve jack-o-lanterns. Other root vegetables, including rutabagas, potatoes and beets, may also have been used to create these veggie lanterns, which used candles, burning coal or embers to create light and were intended as talismans to ward off evil spirits. Irish immigrants likely brought the practice to the United States, and exposure to the large, internally hollow and easily carved pumpkin started a new tradition of carving pumpkins instead of root vegetables.

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