Why do we carve Pumpkins at Halloween?

People do peculiar things at festive times. For example if a space alien visited Earth at Christmas would they be confused as to why so many families decided to chop down perfectly good trees, bring them indoors, and decorate them with lights? Why do people in Gloucestershire, England roll cheese down a hill one a year? Why do rabbits bring children chocolate eggs at Easter? When you think about it, it might seem very random and confusing to a newly arrived space alien. But like most of our strange traditions Halloween springs from many different older traditions.

Many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Irish and European harvest festivals. The Irish call this time Samhain (pronounced sawan).  Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. 

Around the time of Samhain, masks were worn to frighten away evil spirits. The practice of decorating jack-o’-lanterns also likely originated in Ireland. However, since Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America, and weren’t widely available in Europe, Irish people carved terrifying faces into turnips and other native root vegetables.

When Irish people emigrated to America they discovered Pumpkins, and the modern day tradition of creating jack-o’-lanterns evolved. It’s likely that Samhain traditions mixed with those from other cultures. Like the Mexican Day Of The Dead for example.

Modern pumpkin-carving, of course, is done for family fun rather than scaring away evil spirits. Our team here at StoryToys just  love carving pumpkins for Halloween. Here’s a selection of some of our favorites.