Which Ethnic Group Brought “Carving Halloween Pumpkins” to America?
While the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to put the wraps on many Halloween parties, trick-or-treating and Halloween decorating are in full-swing, and that includes carving pumpkins.
Just how long has carving pumpkins been popular and where did it come from? And what about trick-or-treating for candy? Believe it or not, a clue lies in the actual name of a carved pumpkin, Jack o'Lantern.
A jack o'lantern is a carved pumpkin, turnip or other root vegetable lantern associated with Halloween, according to Merriam-Webster's, The History of the Jack O'lantern.
One theory begins by associating the illumination of a hollowed-out pumpkin with a Celtic pagan practice in which turnips or other root vegetables were hollowed out, carved with grotesque faces, and then illuminated by coal, wooden embers, or candles as a way to ward off evil spirits. The custom was carried on by Christians during the feast of All Hallows' Eve—observed on October 31 and etymologically related to Halloween—the evening before All Saints' (or All Hallows') Day.
Jack o'Lanterns are a yearly Halloween tradition that came to the United States from Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 1800s. Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" added to the story, as did Cooperstown's James Fenimore Cooper who wrote a nautical novel titled The Jack O'lantern in 1842.
The Trick-or-Treat tradition is of Irish and Scottish descent when in the late 1800s, people in masks would go door to door carrying jack o'Lanterns and would be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money, according to publications from the era. Around the same period, trick-or-treating was first referred to as "guising" around the neighborhood, according to Frank Leslie's popular monthly, and it wouldn't become widespread until the 20th century.
Today, Halloween is enormous in America, even in spite of the current pandemic. According to the National Retail Federation, 148 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this year with 46-percent of them carving pumpkins and 53-percent decorating their homes. NRF estimates $8.5 billion will be spent on the holiday this year in the U.S. alone.
People spend a lot of time and money on their Halloween costumes every year. Even though large gatherings aren't permitted due to COVID-19 guidelines, you can expect to see a lot of people getting dressed up in their costumes to go to work.
The top adult costumes for 2020 according to NRF are:
The top children's costumes for 2020, according to NRF are:
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