Why pumpkins are the symbol of Halloween

HalloweenHalloween.Photo: nille.no

The pumpkin is the hallmark of Halloween, and on ‘all hallow’s eve’, pumpkins will light up the streets all over the country. They may be a little scary, but they are also very good to eat.


Along with creepy costumes, face makeup and spooky decorations, Pumpkins have become a symbol of Halloween all over the world.

Symbolically, the pumpkin is often linked to rebirth and fertility, and they also symbolise harvests and crops. They fit the season in which Halloween falls every year.

Garnish with pumpkin

For those who go ’trick or treating’, a luminous pumpkin on the stairs is the symbol that those who live there want a visit.

Pumpkin Lantern

Pumpkin lanterns are perhaps the most visible symbol of Halloween, and they illuminate streets, stairs, and window frames every year.

Vegetables used as a scent are an old phenomenon, but the reason why only pumpkins are used at Halloween is simply that they are ready for harvest over much of the world in late October. Pumpkins are, therefore, in season, and easily accessible just around Halloween.

Additionally, pumpkins make good lanterns as the dark nights grow in.

Why exactly pumpkin?

The origins of carved pumpkins being used at Halloween, are contained in an ancient Irish myth about the fierce black-smith, ‘Stingy Jack’, who was said to have fooled the devil several times, often to trick himself into receiving a last drink at the pub.

The last time he tricked the devil into promising not to take his soul when he died. Jack couldn’t end up in hell. But because of his dealings with dark powers, and love of strong liquor, Jack wasn’t welcome in heaven either.

When he died, therefore, Jack had to walk the earth forever with a piece of glowing coal as his only light. Jack put the chunk in a carved cabbage root, and today he wanders in the dark with it throwing off an ethereal green light.

Because of the legend of Jack, for hundreds of years, people in England put carved vegetables with candles on their stairs and window frames to scare away Jack’s wandering soul, much as we now do on Halloween all over the world. The cabbage root as Jack’s symbol was replaced by the pumpkin.

Pumpkins at Halloween are called ‘Jack O’Lanterns’ in English, after Stingy Jack. Pumpkin lanterns were first mentioned in English texts in 1837, and began to be used during Halloween celebrations from 1866.

The pumpkins are lit with candles, they are easy to hollow out and cut patterns into. Particularly common carvings are creepy faces that are said to scare away dark powers.


Source: nille.no / Norway Today