The Illuminated Gourd
Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. Day of the Dead, All Souls' Day. All names for this holiday hovering around the end of October, with each tradition giving a nod, sometimes very well disguised, to the approaching winter. A time when harvest is definitely a memory and long nights can give rise to flights of fantasy.
Today the sun moves in and out of clouds, the wind is cold and blowing leaves everywhere. A perfect brew of fall colors and smells with a chill to remind us that winter is emphatically waiting around the corner.
Halloween is rich in traditions, sometimes conflicting. But one part of the holiday that most agree on is carving pumpkins. Pumpkins for carving have been bred for size and other appealing jack-o-lantern qualities. These come at the expense of flavor so if you are really interested in fresh pumpkin you will need to look for pumpkins bred for sweet flesh.
Pumpkins came late to the carving party, however. Turnips were carved in Ireland. This tradition was brought to America, where pumpkins were more abundant than turnips, and our modern day preference for the illuminated gourd was born.
When I light the candles in my newly carved pumpkins I get an eerie but exciting little thrill. I like to think this harks back to a deeper collective consciousness, but whatever the source, this particular tradition is one of the most evocative. I line them up,stand back,and hugging my sweater close, admire my handiwork.
Scary, somber, silly faces seem suspended in mid-air, shining through the cold dark. Quintessential Halloween.