Halloween is the time for pumpkin carving. Techies have their own style. Networkworld has posted a slide show of several creations
Pumpkins when carved and filled with a candle flame are called Jack O’ Lanterns
. Folklore tells us of several possible origins of the name. It is said to come from the phenomenon of a strange light flickering over peat bogs. Another possibility is the legend of Stingy Jack
whose spirit wanders between Heaven and Hell with only a flame in the carved out hollow of a turnip to light his way. In America, during the mid 1800’s, carving became an artistic, or more appropriately a ghoulish, design on a pumpkin.
Halloween and carved pumpkin jack o lanterns share a twisted past. The last night in October has been called by many names: Night of the Spirits, Feast of the Dead, Festival of the Harvest, Mischief Night, and Samhain.
Samhain was a harvest festival with huge sacred bonfires, marking the end of the Celtic year and beginning of a new one. Animals that might not make it through the winter were slaughtered then
, and consumed in communal feasts associated with the festival. The remains of unrelated, bodies, possibly from human sacrifices have been found in Northern European bogs. Were the lights their souls seeking release?
The legend of Stingy Jack
has Jack’s spirit wandering between Heaven and Hell with only a flame in a turnip to light his way at night. How a turnip turned into a pumpkin like Cinderella’s coach is not clear, but Jack with his lantern may be the basis of our Jack O’Lantern.
The roots of trick or treat
are found in offerings that were put out to pacify evil spirits that roamed through village streets at night. Perhaps we should start leaving treats to appease the gremlins in our computers.
The word Halloween is derived from All Hallow’s Eve, another name for the last day in October, which is followed on the Christian calendar by the celebration of All Saint’s Day. Pagan and Christian legends and practices entwine in this holiday as in many others, and the mix provides a time for tomfoolery, as well as for reverence. It is an opportunity to indulge in the wild, uncivilized Dionysian
side of our nature, while celebrating the joy of life.
Technology is the creative side of our nature exemplified. Pumpkin carving is simply an extension of that creativity on a different plane. Bring the two together and you get some pretty interesting pumpkins. Winning a pumpkin carving contest is challenging and our techies drew upon that which they knew.
Pumpkins are the center of many contests. Pumpkin pie, as shown here, and growing pumpkins top the list. Guinness World Records just certified the world’s heaviest pumpkin, grown by Chris Stevens of Wisconsin, weighing in at 1,810 pounds. It might take a chain saw to carve that one.
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