With Halloween just around the corner and trick or treating in Carlisle, PA happening tonight (Thursday evening), we thought it would be fun to include a little trick or treating history for you! Trick or Treating is actually a long and honored tradition dating back thousands of years.
Well, the antecedent to it did. During times of famine, disease, and such, people often wore masks to frighten off the evil spirits they believed responsible for these disasters. Samhain (Sow-en), you may recall from an earlier post, is where our modern Halloween comes from. It celebrates the abundant harvest, and signals the end of the growing time. That also meant colder weather was approaching. Well, ghosts being cold by nature, would do their best to trick people into letting them get closer to the fires. So, people were very careful to wear masks in that season.
The custom of trick of treating began with 19th century souling. On All Souls Day,November 2nd, early Christian beggars would walk through the neighborhood, begging soul cakes. A soul cake received was a promise to pray for the dead, and so each one represented a soul released from Purgatory. Fast forward to around the 18th century, and the beggars become children and the treats become nuts, fruits, and buns. Fast forward a little more and the candy companies get into the act and thus the beginnings of what we see now.
We’ll post a recipe for Soul Cakes soon! Enjoy Trick or Treating tonight and be sure to stay safe. Here are some Trick or Treating safety tips for you.
Time for another bit of Halloween history. We mentioned before that the whole idea of the Jack o’ Lantern comes from a story about a guy called Stingy Jack and a rather absurd devil. What happened was this guy Jack was having a drink with the devil. Being a stingy fellow, Jack didn’t want to pay for the drinks. So he talked the devil into turning himself into a coin to pay for them with. For some reason, the devil thought this was a good idea and did so. Small wonder that Jack did not use it to pay the tab. He put it in his pocket, which also contained a silver cross, which kept the devil from resuming his proper form. Jack agreed to release the devil only upon obtaining his promise that should Jack die in the next year, the devil would not claim his soul.
A year later, Jack again tricks this pathetic devil into climbing a tree to pick some fruit. While he is up there, Jack carves a cross in the tree so the devil cannot come down out of the tree. This time the deal is Jack will release the devil upon the devil’s promise of not claiming his soul, this time for 10 years.
Well, Jack does die within those 10 years. The devil, who apparently has quite a lot of integrity, honors his word and does not claim his soul. God, however, won’t let this guy into his place for obvious reasons. Having nowhere to go, Jack is condemned to wander the earth forever, with only a coal to light his way. He put the coal in a hollowed-out turnip. So, the term Jack o’ Lantern doesn’t actually refer to to pumpkin at all, but to the guy carrying it. But no one seems to worry about the details of myths too much. Which is a good thing, or we might be tempted to ask
why the devil was having a drink with Jack in the first place or how that bar tab ever was paid.
So, now you know. By the way, we’ve got some pretty cool Jack o’ Lanterns you might want to check out.
A turnip. No, seriously. It comes from an old Irish myth (Aren’t all myths old? Are there any new myths?) about a guy named Stingy Jack and a none-too-bright, but quite trustworthy, Devil. Here’s a link to one of the versions of the legend, and here’s another one, and there are many more.
The upshot is that Jack couldn’t get into either Heaven or Hell and was doomed to roam the dark of the night forever, with only a coal to light his way, which Jack carried in a hollowed-out turnip. So, he became know as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack o’ Lantern. So, the first Jack o’ Lantern was not a pumpkin, or a gourd of any kind, but a turnip, which, we must assume, grew larger in those days. They also used potatoes and beets, until they came to this country and figured out pumpkins were a lot easier to carve. Of course, we here at Meadowbrooke Gourds make them out of gourds, like these.
All Hallow’s Eve was the Celtic New Year’s Eve. They believed that on that night, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead was
The Casper Family
quite thin, so the spirits could walk the earth then. The celebrations to appease the spirits turned into most of the Halloween customs of today.
By the way, the name “pumpkin” is derived from the French term for “large melon.”
Before there was pottery and basketry, there were gourds. Gourds were among the first containers, bowls, plates, and utensils ever made. Yup, they’ve been around as long as toolmaking has. In fact, pottery and basketry seem to be modeled after gourds. Look at this pre Columbian-era pot. Clearly, you can see the bottom of a bottle gourd in its shape, just like the raw, cleaned bowls we sell on our site and in our retail store. And look at these dipper gourds. They practically scream, “I’m a spoon!”
Now, you can say these are the most reasonable, serviceable shape for containers and that pottery would have developed this way even without the gourds to guide them. And you may be right. In which case, mega kudos to Nature for providing such a wonderful tool for us! Just by cutting a little off here and there, early humans had ready-to-use bowls, cups, spoons, etc. And
the gourd was one – perhaps the – earliest cultivated crop. That’s a pretty amazing history, don’t you think?
Raw, 6" bottle gourd
We met Bones the Skeleton the other day. Bones is made from a penguin gourd and a bottle gourd for his head. The bottle gourd is so named because that is one of it’s purposes: To serve as a bowl, cup, or (you guessed it) bottle. In other parts of the world, it is known as calabash, lauki, doodhi, ghia, kaddu, tarkari, or 葫蘆. Got that? It is a very important symbol in the East, representing as it does both Heaven and Earth, or the entire universe. This link gives a very interesting picture of the meaning this fruit has to Asians.
Here’s something interesting as we slog through the dog days of late summer: The flesh has a cooling influence on the body. The juice is sometimes used in Ayuvedic medicine to treat high blood pressure and heart problems, as well as other issues.
Various gourd shapes make up our MBGourd birdhouses
Native Americans grew bottle gourds for use as birdhouses, specifically for purple martins. They’d put the birdhouses in fields near crops because the birds eat insects, including mosquitos, which they catch “on the wing.” They won’t eat them off the ground. (Not sanitary?) They also scare away crows and other small animals that tend to ruin crops.
And they make great skeletons, too!
As far as we can tell, gourds have been around at least as long as we have. They’ve served as everything from plates, bowls, and cooking pots and utensils to musical instruments to medicine to a replacement for part of the skull in Neolithic brain surgery (Can you believe it! They did brain surgery back then! And evidence suggest that a good many of the patients survived it).
Gourds first appeared somewhere in Asia, but they long ago spread to every corner of the globe. In fact, they’re one of the only – possibly the only – plant to have done so. Gourds are in the pumpkin family. Fun Fact: The pumpkin is the largest fruit in the world. Yep, it’s a fruit, the seeds are inside the flesh of the plant. They are not used for food much anymore in Western civilization, but we have fallen back in love with them, mostly as a decoration or art form. They come in about a zillion shapes, sizes, and colors. They can be carved and crafted like wood, but lighter and without a grain to worry about. They can be quite decorative all on their own.
At Meadowbrooke Gourds, we grow, dry, clean, cut, and decorate all our own gourds, and we’re happy to show you every step of the process, and even give you a hand if you’d like to try it yourself. We’ll sometimes have posts dedicated to it, and you can always find some helpful information on our web site. You may even find fun activities for the kids so you can make it a family affair. We’re very big on family here, since our whole Meadowbrooke team sort of operates like one. Sometimes we’ll have Fun Facts and interesting historical tidbits on this blog and a lot of other things, too, maybe even recipes. Just stay tuned. You can tell us what you want to see here! We will do what we can to accommodate your requests. So, we’ll be talking to you soon.