KEY POINTS

  • Botanists categorized pumpkins as fruits because they grow from seeds
  • Christopher Columbus brought pumpkin seeds to Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries
  • Pumpkins were Native Americans' staple food back in the days

National Pumpkin Day is observed every year on Oct. 26. Not much is said about how the observance started or when it began in the United States. However, the day is among the most celebrated in the country as proven by how pumpkin is an integral part of the American Halloween celebration.

Celebrate the National Pumpkin Day 2020 differently this year by doing these three unique things:

1. Know the etymology of “pumpkin” and share it among friends- The name has roots from the Greek word “p epõn” which means “large melon.”  The French then adapted the word and became “pompon” which the British changed to “pumpion.” By the time the word reached the Americans, the word had already become “pumpkin.”

Celebrate National Pumpkin Day 2016 with a few fun takes on pumpkin drinks and treats. Pumpkins are seen for sale outside of a supermarket in Bethesda, Maryland on Oct. 13, 2015. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

2. Read up on the history of pumpkin as a staple food for the ancient people- Botanists categorized pumpkins as fruits because they grow from seeds. Even with that scientific classification, pumpkins are widely regarded as vegetables. Pumpkins originated in Central America more than 7,500 years ago. The oldest pumpkin seeds grown by humans were discovered by archaeologists in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico. 

Pumpkins were also a food staple for the Native Americans back in the days. The fruits kept them full during long winters when growing and finding food was extremely challenging. The famous fruits made it to the Thanksgiving table for the first time in 1623. According to accounts, it was Christopher Columbus who brought pumpkin seeds to Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.  

3. Tell the myth of how Jack-O-Lanterns came to be- Today, pumpkins are integral to how Americans celebrate Halloween. There are families who make pumpkin carving together for special bonding and creating memories. Many make time to visit pumpkin parch to get the biggest pumpkins they can use for decorations in time for kids’ trick-or-treating. 

People may have been so used to seeing pumpkins being made as Jack-O-Lanterns that they have forgotten the creepy story behind this famous decoration. 

The Myth:

The Irish and Scottish immigrants were the ones who began pumpkin carving to make the fruits into Jack-O-Lanterns. However, they didn’t do this just for fun or merely for aesthetics. 

There is an Irish myth where a man named Stingy Jack tried trapping the Devil. He asked the Devil to transform itself into a coin that he could use to pay for their drinks. 

When the Devil agreed and turned himself into a coin, Stingy Jack put him in his pocket instead. To keep him from transforming back to being the Devil, Stingy Jack placed a silver cross with him inside his pocket.   

Stingy Jack then told the Devil he will let him go but on one condition that when he dies, the Devil should not claim his soul or at least won’t get his soul for a full year, to which the Devil agreed. 

The next year, Stingy Jack managed to trick the Devil again. He asked the Devil to climb a tree and then placed a silver cross under the tree. The Devil was so scared to come down. Stingy Jack then changed the condition, saying the Devil shouldn’t claim his soul and let them wander for ten years more after dying. 

 Stingy Jack eventually died but wasn’t allowed to enter heaven because he was a bad man. He went down to hell but the Devil refused him entry because he promised not to claim his soul for the next decade.  

Stingy Jack stayed in limbo, the dark place between heaven and hell. He was holding just a lantern to guide him through the way. 

Halloween pumpkins Celebrate Halloween by making spooky foods. An installation of 3,000 candle-lit pumpkins blanket the canal side steps at Granary Square on Oct. 31, 2014 in London, England. Photo: Rob Stothard/Getty Images