Large pumpkins of various degrees of orange and gold are festooning every supermarket shelf at the moment, ready to be turned into demonic grinning faces. I started wondering – as you do – about what on earth pumpkins have got to do with Hallowe’en. It’s a curious tale.
The term jack-o’lantern was originally used to describe the visual phenomenon ignis fatuus (which translates as “foolish fire”) known as a will-o’-the-wisp in medieval English folklore.
The term “will-o’-the-wisp” uses “wisp” (a bundle of sticks or paper sometimes used as a torch) and the proper name “Will”: thus, “Will-of-the-torch.” The term jack o’lantern is of the same construction i.e. Jack of [the] lantern.
The origin of pumpkin carving comes from an Irish myth about Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain. When Jack died, God didn’t allow him into heaven, and the Devil didn’t let him into hell, so Jack was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity.
There was already a Hallowe’en custom in the 19th century for turnips or mangel wurzels to be hollowed out to act as lanterns, often carved with grotesque faces, in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands In these Gaelic-speaking regions, Halloween was also the festival of Samhain and was seen as a time when supernatural beings, and the souls of the dead, walked the earth.
The lanterns were said to represent either spirits or supernatural beings, or were used to ward off evil spirits For example, sometimes they were used by Halloween participants to frighten people, and sometimes they were set on windowsills to keep harmful spirits out of one’s home. It has also been suggested that the jack-o’-lanterns originally represented Christian souls in purgatory, as Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day on 1st November and All Souls’ Day on 2nd November.
The story about Stingy Jack travelled across the Atlantic when Irish settled emigrated to America and was quickly incorporated into Halloween. We’ve been carving pumpkins—or turnips—ever since.
If you’re been scraping out pumpkins ready for Hallowe’en, there’s an odds-on chance you might have more pumpkin available than you know what to do with. I came across this delicious and easy seasonal iced coffee recipe that you might like. All you do is cook the pumpkin gently, allow to cool and puree. Then you’re ready to rock’n’roll ….
Iced Pumpkin Spice “Latte” Smoothie
In a blender put:
- 125 ml milk of your choice
- Half a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 125 ml cooked, pureed pumpkin
- 4 ice cubes
Blend ingredients. Sweeten to taste. Try maple syrup or honey as an alternative to sugar.
Pumpkin scrapers, eaters and drinkers are welcome at the Butterfly Loft. Whether you’re visiting family or travelling on business, booking accommodation in Milton Keynes couldn’t be easier. Visit our contacts page to check availability and make your reservation.