Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine, Online

Bumpy and oddly shaped is the new orange and round

Bumpy and oddly shaped is the new orange and round

Bumpy and oddly shaped is the new orange and round – not on fashion runways but in the pumpkin patch. There isn’t a symbol more closely tied to the joy of fall than the good old pumpkin. But how and why and when did pumpkins get this glorification? How did this Cucurbita find a place in a holiday season?

The jack-’o-lantern also was known as a “turnip lantern” but to avoid the specifics that intrigued me for hours and most folks for only moments, I will just say it is believed to have begun as an actual lantern.

One could use a turnip, a beet or indeed a pumpkin with the innards pulled out with an opening carved and a lit candle inside carried by a person at night to light the way.  I would guess it got spooky when people started carving out crude faces for the holes.

Ever walk at night with a small light through a big dark star-filled world? Imagining ghouls and goblins in the night is easy.

The medieval practice of “mumming” on the eve of All Saints Day contributed to the idea of present-day Halloween. Mumming involved wearing costumes and general mischief making. Sound familiar?

I also enjoy the connection between jack-’o-lanterns and the phenomena of the “will of the wisp,” the mystifying lights seen over the bogs in Ireland associated with fairies and ghosts.

 It is a tradition in my family that each year we set aside a day and pick out our prize pumpkin – it’s as much fun as picking a Christmas tree.  

In our area, there are pick-your-own pumpkin patches – a joy for kids – or an already lovingly picked pile to choose from.

Growing your own giant pumpkin, as I have found out, requires some faith and work. My own editor Donna’s brother Roger Carter is a pumpkineer. Most of us think of planting a pumpkin about Oct. 1 when we start feeling the first cool evenings in our part of Arkansas. Roger explains, “If you want a pumpkin, you have to believe in the future. You have to set your seed in this area around the end of June.” 

If you want to compete with the world’s record, you will need a big ol’ truck, as last year’s prize went to a 2,009-pounder.

Put on your pumpkin pickin’ pants and peruse the  plethora of round orange ones or go wild with a bumpy and odd one. This year, you could be your neighborhood pumpkinista.

Happy hunting!

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