Pumpkins are one of the quintessential symbols of fall and Halloween, so it's only appropriate that National Pumpkin Day would fall on October 26. Right in the middle of the season, this day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate all things pumpkin and gear up for a holiday right around the corner!
Spotlight: When and How to Celebrate
National Pumpkin Day
The History of the Pumpkin
Evidence suggests that pumpkins originated in North America about 9000 years ago, around the time of 7000 B.C. The origin of the name comes from Pepõn, the Greek word for "Large Melon." Over time this word cycled through French and into English, where it became part of American English to refer to pumpkins as we do today.
Native Americans relied on pumpkins as one of their staple crops. They initially grew pumpkins alongside riverbanks with sunflowers and beans. Later, when the Native Americans started to grow maize as a crop, they swapped out the sunflowers for maize and grew pumpkins and beans together. The three crops could support each other, allowing for all the plants to flourish.
Both Christopher Columbus and Spanish explorers took pumpkin seeds back to Europe throughout the 1400 and 1500s, where farmers took on the crop, allowing it to spread over time. Pilgrims and colonists also started to cultivate pumpkins after learning about them through the Native Americans, paving the way for farming of pumpkins today.
We may consider pumpkins as nearly synonymous with Halloween and Jack o Lanterns, but this wasn't always the case. The origin of the Jack o Lantern is most likely in Ireland, where people would create Jack o Lanterns from potatoes and turnips. Later, when pumpkins came into the picture, they ultimately became the base for such carvings.
One of the most commonly accepted legends of the Jack o Lantern is the story of Stingy Jack. While many variations start the story, the core is that a man, Jack, was about to die when he bargained with the devil for an extra year of life. The devil agreed and didn't return the next year.
Instead of dying when he originally bargained, Jack set out to trick the devil, this time gaining an extra ten years before giving up his soul. Though Jack was successful in warding off the devil, he still died soon after. Because of his misdeeds in life, Jack could not enter heaven, and the devil wouldn't claim Jack's soul because of their bargain.
In the end, Jack had no choice but to wander the earth in limbo, though the devil did give him an ember from hell to light his path. Jack carved up a turnip to carry the coal in so that he could light his way. Because of this, he became known as Jack of the Lantern, which developed into the term we use today.
Jack o Lanterns are like other legends, such as the Will-o-the-Wisp. Many people use them for decorative purposes, while most of the original intent was to scare away wandering spirits and other ill omens, thus the carved design of grinning faces. Many original Jack o Lanterns likely had more grotesque faces than the patterns we see today to fulfill this purpose better.
How to Celebrate National Pumpkin Day
With the popularity of all things pumpkin growing by the year, there's a strong chance you're readier for this holiday than you thought. Including yourself in the pumpkin spice craze is just one way to enjoy this event. Get ready, because your October 26th is about to become a pumpkin day like no other.
Sip on a Pumpkin Spice Latte
Autumn is when the seasonal flavors start to come alive, and pumpkin spice coffee is the selling spot for coffee shops of all kinds. If you do nothing else to celebrate the day, there's no reason you can't take a moment to enjoy some coffee to start off your morning or relax in the afternoon. Not interested in picking up coffee from a shop? Brew your favorite drink at home and add some pumpkin spice creamer for the same delicious effect.
Go to a Pumpkin Patch
Let's face it: it's almost Halloween by the time this day rolls around, so you could use pumpkin in your life. Go to the patch, find the perfect pumpkin (or pumpkins), and bring it home. You don't even have to do anything extra with them – merely setting them out will make your home look more than ready for the season. If you've already picked up your gourds earlier in the month, there's no reason you can't snag a few more.
Make (or Maybe Only Indulge in) Some Baked Goods
There is no shortage of potential pumpkin-flavored pastries for you to indulge on. You've got the classic pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, cookies – you name it, and there's probably someone who's found a smart way to bake pumpkin into it. Get creative and find new recipes online or stick to the classics. No matter what you do, fresh baked goods are the perfect addition to any fall day. And if you're not quite a whiz in the kitchen, no one will judge you if you go pick up something from the store.
Carve a Jack o Lantern
You could go ahead and set your pumpkins out for decoration, and that would be plenty. But what Halloween would be complete without a Jack o Lantern? Go for the classic look or gather with your friends and see who can come up with the most awesome carved pumpkin design. When you finish, everyone will have something stylish to set out on their porches. You can even use the insides to make your pumpkin dishes.
Enjoy Pumpkin Seeds
Carving up a pumpkin is also a great excuse to collect some seeds for ready use. Seeds, in general, have some significant benefits, and those from pumpkins are no different. They contain lots of vitamins and minerals that can help support your heart and give a more restful sleep. You'll get the most benefit from them raw, but you can bake them for a tasty snack or incorporate them into other recipes. Chocolate chunk and pumpkin seed cookies, anyone?
Break Out the Paints
If carving pumpkins feels too messy for you, that doesn't mean you have to keep your gourds plain. Paint your pumpkins with fun designs to encourage holiday spirit. This one is a super activity to let kids in on since it doesn't involve any knives – just imagination! Unleash your creative vision on a giant pumpkin, or even pick out a bunch of smaller ones to combine into fun art projects.
Indulge in Pumpkin Flavored Ice Cream
Just because it's autumn doesn't mean you can't enjoy some frozen desserts. Pumpkin flavored ice cream is a must-have on this holiday, bringing together the rich flavors of pumpkin into one of the ultimate treats. Grab a cone, a cup, a bowl, (or maybe a whole carton if you're feeling ambitious). Like any other ice cream, you can also make a milkshake, which might just put those frappes to shame. This snack makes the perfect treat for when you've finished up your other holiday activities and are ready to relax.
Find a Pumpkin Chunking Contest
Nothing says excitement like seeing just how far you can throw a pumpkin (and watching it shatter as a result). So naturally, people came together to find out ways to launch them even further resulting in pumpkin chunking contests. Eager participants gather up to show off their pumpkin slinging catapults and compete to see who's got the longest shot around. If you're feeling up to it, pull together an invention and test it out! Of course, it's just as enjoyable to watch from the audience. Either way, you're in for a smashing good time,
Discover Other Pumpkin Recipes
Okay, we've covered our desserts and some tasty seed options, not to mention drinks. But those aren't the only delicious options pumpkin has to offer. In fact, there are lots of recipes out there you may not have ever even considered with pumpkin. If you want to try something new, consider:
- Pumpkin Lasagna
- Pumpkin Tortelli
- Baked pasta with pumpkin, roasted veggies, and chicken
- Pumpkin black bean soup
If you hunt around, you may find this delectable gourd in surprising places. If there was ever a day to have a pumpkin-based adventure with your meals, this holiday is it.
Enjoying the Holiday to the Fullest
National Pumpkin Day no doubt has the chance to be one of the most orange-filled holidays of your life, and that's perfectly fine. With so many foods, drinks, treats, and activities, you have a whole slew of options of what to do. Plus, you can take care of any extra Halloween prep you haven't quite gotten to yet.
And even if you don't find yourself the Great Pumpkin, at least you'll have a lot of memories to look back on. Thank you for all the joy you bring us, pumpkins. This day is for you.