Today at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library (2AD) we invoked both the Halloween and American spirit by trying our hand at some pumpkin decorating. The pumpkin, or Jack-O-Lantern—the name for a carved pumpkin—has become one of the more familiarized symbols of Halloween. The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded as early as 1837. But how did a vegetable, more commonly associated with the Autumn Harvest, become an international emblem for the festivities celebrated on October 31st? The story is yet another example of the ways in which Great Britain and the North American continent continue to influence each other’s culture.
North American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th century suggest that Halloween was never celebrated in the Americas. In fact, the Puritans of New England maintained a strong opposition to Halloween. It was not until the mass Irish and Scottish immigration to the United States during the 19th century that Halloween was brought to North America. Though initially confined to the immigrant communities from which it was introduced, by the early 20th century Halloween became part of mainstream American life. It is now celebrated coast to coast by people of all social, racial and religious backgrounds.
The North American use of the pumpkin during Halloween was inspired by an old Irish and Scottish custom which saw the carving of turnips during Halloween. Many Irish and Scottish immigrants in the U.S. found the native pumpkin much softer, larger and easier to carve than the turnip and so they continued the tradition with a slight change—the Pumpkin.
Another popular image found in North America (particularly Canada and the U.S.) during Halloween is Candy Corn. Candy Corn is a confection made almost entirely out of sugar; it was created in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Philadelphia based Wunderle Candy Company. Candy Corn is recognizable by its triangular shape and three tiered colour design (yellow, orange and a white pointed tip). The shape and colour of Candy Corn is meant to mimic the appearance of corn kernels. Come see our Candy Corn inspired pumpkin in the 2AD and perhaps gain some inspiration for your very own pumpkin by checking out some of our craft books. Of particular use for us in the 2AD library today was Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell’s, The Pumpkin Carving Book. If you want to take pumpkin carving to a more advanced level, why not explore the work of American artist Ray Anthony Villafane, known most notably for his 3-D style Pumpkin carvings.
Modern imagery of Halloween comes from many sources, including cultural customs (like the ones discussed above), works of literature (like Frankenstein and Dracula) and classic horror films. Norfolk County Library users can find a great range of craft books, novels and family-friendly films in their local branches searchable in the catalogue:
With a little over a week to go, you still have time to get into the Halloween spirit. So come visit us for some ideas and entertainment. Whatever you do this Halloween we hope you have fun and stay safe. From all of us at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!