Pumpkins have become a symbol of Hallowe’en

Here we are in the autumn of the year again. And that means, among other things, pumpkins.
Pumpkin faces—either real or cardboard—spring up all over the place in late October. Along with witches, goblins, and ghosts, the pumpkin has come to be a symbol of Hallowe’en.
The pumpkin that is so prominent in October originated in the New World. It is really just a particular type of squash, and was cultivated by the native North Americans at least as early as 1500 B.C.
There is a whole family of vine-type plants, which is called the Cucurbitaceae. The family includes squash, cucumbers, gourds, melons, and cantaloup, as well as pumpkins.
Anyone who has ever had pumpkins in his or her garden will know that, once they start to really grow, they take off!
The vines will grow to a tremendous length, and climb into and over everything. The leaves also are very large, and stand a foot or more above the ground.
The pumpkin has two kinds of flowers—staminate (male) and pistillate (female)—which are very large, brilliant yellow in colour, and shaped like large funnels.
But pumpkins are grown for their fruit. Now these fruits are good-sized, usually running from 10-20 pounds up to about 75 pounds or so.
There are some, however, which have been especially bred for the great size of their fruit. Here we are talking big—up to around 400 pounds!
Many of you will know that a gentleman in Nova Scotia held the prize for the world’s largest pumpkin for quite a while. Nowadays, you can buy seeds, from most companies, of the “Atlantic Pumpkin.”
Pumpkins can be stored “as is,” providing it is kept warm and dry. It will last several months.
How did the pumpkin get to be associated with Hallowe’en? Well, Nov. 1 is known to Christianity as All Saints Day, so the day before it is called “All Hallows’ Eve.”
It is believed that witches, black cats, and skulls came to us from Roman harvest festivals. The idea of tricks came from the British Isles and Ireland, and can be traced to the Druids (Nov. 1 was the Druid New Year).
Bonfires were lit, goblins and witches terrified the populace, and so on. All of these customs were transferred to the New World with the immigrants.
The common pumpkin was very handy for carving a “death’s” head on Hallowe’en, and so the custom grew.
So for several hundred years, the pumpkin has been a symbol of the celebrations on Oct. 31. But it has gone from being an evil figure to be whatever you want it—a sour, ghoulish face to a happy-go-lucky smiler!
The pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) has become one of our best traditions, either as a pie or as a strange face in the dark.

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