Cucurbits - tradition
Pumpkins play an important part in many customs and traditions, particularly at Halloween and in the American celebration of Thanksgiving.
The jack-o'-lantern is the festival light for Halloween and is the ancient symbol of a damned soul. Originally, the Irish carved out turnips or beets as lanterns to represent the souls of the dead or goblins freed from the underworld. When they emigrated to America, they began to carve pumpkins instead. Pumpkins were embellished with terrifying faces representing demons to frighten away evil spirits.
The origins of Halloween
The origins of Halloween lie in the ancient Celtic festival of 'Samhain', which celebrated the onset of winter and the beginning of the Celtic New Year.
At Samhain, hostile supernatural forces were thought to be active, and ghosts and spirits were free to try to return to their former homes. By offering the spirits gifts of fruits and nuts, villagers attempted to appease them so that they would not kill domestic animals or destroy property. This may be the origin of the present day 'trick-or-treat'.
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