Pumpkin, an Autumn Icon

Halloween is just around the corner, with Thanksgiving following closely behind. Sure, late October is best known for children running around as ghosts, goblins, and witches as they search from house to house for candies and knick knacks to fill their sacks. And in November we are reminded about the friendships the early settlers made with the Natives as schools perform Thanksgiving Day pageants. But during the months of fall there is an image even more iconic which spans the holidays. I’m referring to the symbol of the pumpkin.


During the late weeks of September and early weeks of October the small town I grew up in would prepare to celebrate the fall harvest with a week long event known as the Pumpkin Festival. In these weeks prior to the festival every child would be given a pumpkin in which they would have to decorate, paint, or carve a creative image. This was mandatory in our schools, but was not limited to the children. Any person of any age could participate in their own pumpkin project. Then during the week of the festival these pumpkins would be on display, coating the lawn of the local court house. Towards the end of the week these pumpkins would be judged and awards would be given out based upon age group and category. And on the last day of the festival a huge parade would happen along Main Street. This was the Pumpkin Parade.


Then came the weeks leading up to Halloween, families harvest these giant gourds to decorate and carve into jack-o’-lanterns. It becomes family tradition much like decorating Christmas cookies and painting Easter eggs. A person would carve a scene or face, or a simple image into the flesh of an empty pumpkin. Then at night, the individual would stick a candle in through the top, placing it inside so that the whole carving would glow.

But the hype of pumpkins does not die in the middle of autumn after Halloween is finished. It is carried through November by the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It is during this time that pumpkins are most known for their taste. People make pumpkin bread, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin lattes, and of course no thanksgiving meal is complete without the notable pumpkin pie.


Yes, from childhood pumpkins have become notorious as a huge part of my autumn season; as it seems these traditions have become the norm for most people of the United States as well. But not many know where these traditions started. Or, perhaps you are looking for tips on carving a great pumpkin that is a work of art. Or, perhaps one is simply looking for a great recipe to full out their autumn meal.