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Why Do We Carve Pumpkins at Halloween?

carving pumpkins, halloween, traditions, jack-o-lantern
Pumpkin carving has a dark history.

Carving vegetables into scary faces then lighting them is an odd kind of custom that just must have interesting roots.

The Irish do not disappoint. Folks there have a legend of a drunken farmer, whose dealings with the devil led to him being turned back at both the gates of heaven and hell upon his death. Forced to wander the darkness of purgatory, Jack made an o'lantern from a turnip and lump of burning coal to guide his lost soul. Every Halloween, communities in Ireland would craft their own turnip lamps to scare him and other wayward spirits away.

The tradition became pumpkin-ified when Irish immigrants found the orange veggie sprouting in abundance in North America. Today, pumpkins mean big business at Halloween: U.S. farmers grow over a billion pounds a year, worth about $106 million.

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Heather Whipps
Heather Whipps writes about history, anthropology and health for Live Science. She received her Diploma of College Studies in Social Sciences from John Abbott College and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from McGill University, both in Quebec. She has hiked with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and is an avid athlete and watcher of sports, particularly her favorite ice hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens. Oh yeah, she hates papaya.