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Why Is the Pumpkin A Symbol of Halloween?

Pumpkins are ripe and plentiful in October, just in time for Halloween. And at that time, these big orange fruits are used in lots of different ways. You might bring one home from a pumpkin patch or the grocery store and carve it into a jack-o’-lantern. You might make use of a creepy pumpkin svg file to create some homemade printable decorations to add some easy spooky touches to your home. You might even consider eating a few of them (pumpkin pie is really good, after all).

But given that Halloween is supposed to be all about spooks, ghouls and monsters how did the innocent pumpkin become a symbol of the creepiest holiday of the year?

The Pumpkin’s Humble Beginnings

Long before there were jack-o’-lanterns, or anyone had ever created a pumpkin SVG file, the pumpkin was just a form of squash that was found only in the Americas, primarily in Central America and Mexico.

It was nomadic natives that carried the seeds into North America and then made use of the pumpkins they grew do everything from make roast pumpkin for sustenance to using the seeds and skins to make mats.

When Columbus left the ‘New World’ he claimed to have been the first to discover he took pumpkin seeds back to Europe, but they did not grow well there. Years later, Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, found pumpkins in what is now part of Canada in 1584. He called them “pepons,” a Greek word that means “large melons.”

Over time, the name was changed to “pumpkin.” When the colonists arrived in the U.S., they began using pumpkins for food, too – thus the tradition of eating pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. It was the influence an influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries, however, that made the pumpkin a part of Halloween instead of just a tasty dessert ingredient

The History of the Jack-o’-Lantern

Early Irish immigrants to the U.S. brought with them the tradition of making a jack-o’-lantern at Halloween. According to Irish folklore, Jack was a clever blacksmith who had tricked the devil on several occasions. The story says that when Jack died, he was denied entrance into both heaven and hell. When the devil turned him away, he gave Jack a burning ember to guide him through the darkness of Limbo, where he was to be banished to forever.

To preserve it, Jack hollowed out a turnip to carry the ember and give him light and ward off the other sad spirits stuck in Limbo with him. The Irish remembered this story each year by carving scary faces on turnips and placing a burning piece of coal inside.

However, when the Irish immigrated to the U.S., they discovered that pumpkins were more readily available and made better jack-o’-lanterns than turnips. Eventually, candles replaced the burning coals and the jack-o-lantern concept spread across the country.

Pumpkin Carving Goes Mainstream

The earliest jack-o-lanterns were usually carved very simply, but as most people know, that is no longer the case today. Pumpkin carving at Halloween has become a real art form, and people compete pretty seriously to see who can come up with the most impressive designs.

The original idea of the jack-o’-lantern was to scare away evil spirits. People would set the carved pumpkins or turnips by their doors and windows in hopes that they would protect them from the evil spirits that were said to roam around at Halloween. Therefore the scarier the pumpkin’s ‘face’ looked the better.

Modern pumpkin-carving, though, is often done for entertainment. While carving scary faces onto the pumpkins is still popular, enthusiasts also carve different designs. Often that is where a pumpkin svg file can be very helpful.

Downloading a pre-designed image, printing it out and then tracing it onto a pumpkin to serve as a cutting pattern can not only make pumpkin carving a lot easier but allows you to be as creative as you like without actually having to create the design from scratch. You’ll still need time, patience and a nice sharp knife of course, as well as a big juicy pumpkin, but it is much easier to create a great looking jack-o’-lantern in this way.