The Mountain Times

°F Fri, April 18, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Jack-o’-lanterns continue the tradition of carving on All Hallows' Eve

Unlike shortages facing much of the Northeast, this year's pumpkin crop in Vermont is just about average, according to state agriculture officials and several growers.

"We are lucky, our crop in Pittsford did not get flooded," said Andrea Winslow who has owned and operated the Winslow Farms in Pittsford, Vt. with her husband, Mark, for the past 20 years. However, the location that they rent in Rutland was damaged. "The Pittsford farm faired fine, we had no flooding and we have healthy pumpkins, but Rutland got completely washed out," she said.

Despite the state averages remaining close to normal, many Vermont farmers did lose pumpkins to the floods of Tropical Storm Irene. There were reports of whole pumpkin patches floating down the rivers. Agriculture officials say 10 percent of Vermont farmers were affected seriously by the flooding, but it is unclear what percentage of those farmers had fruits or vegetables affected.

Recently, the Winslows have seen good crowds "as long as the sun is shining and the ground is fairly dry," Andrea Winslow clarified. Pumpkins are a fairly hardy fruit and can withstand light frosts, "pumpkins do better than the greenery and better than the foliage," she said. "We have not seen a killing frost yet, it got down to 29 degrees but pumpkins do fine until the temperatures get into the teens or low 20s."

Pumpkins come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In fact, they are said to have the largest range in size of any fruit - from the "Jack-be-Little" desktop decoration to the huge Atlantic Giant pumpkin, which can weigh over 1000 pounds. But it's the Connecticut Field pumpkins, weighing 10 to 25 pounds, that most of us know best. That's the pumpkin-carving variety so popular this time of year at Winslow farm and all pumpkin patches and farm stands across the state.

Polly 's Pumpkin 2010

JACK-O'-LANTERN FOLKLORE

An old Irish folk tale tells of Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who traps the Devil. There are many varieties to the story, but here are two of the most popular versions. In the first story, Jack tricks the Devil into climbing an apple tree and then quickly places crosses around the trunk (or carves them into the bark) so that the Devil cannot climb down.

The second version starts with villagers chasing Jack because he had stolen from them. The Devil then appears claiming it is time for Jack to die. However, he was able to stall his death by tempting the Devil, telling the him to turn into a coin so he can pay the church-going villagers for the stolen goods; later, when the coin/Devil disappears, the villagers would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil, agreeing to this plan, turns himself into a silver coin and jumps into Jack's wallet, only to find a cross. Jack closed the wallet tight and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers, thus, trapping the Devil.

In both folktales, Jack lets the Devil go only when he agrees never to take his soul. When Jack finally died of old age, his life had been too sinful for him to go to heaven; but because of the Devil's promise he was barred from Hell as well. He was stuck in-between. When Jack asked the Devil how he would see where to go, the Devil mockingly tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell that would never burn out. Jack is said to have carved out one of his turnips, put the ember inside, and began endlessly wandering the land for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-Lantern.

The tradition of carving a pumpkin to make a Jack-o'-lantern started in the British Isles where they carved a turnip, instead of pumpkins, which are native to America. These early lanterns were created on All Hallows' Eve and were placed on the doorstep to ward off evil spirits. A "treat" could also be left to placate roaming evil sprites for fear that, if not satisfied, they may "play a trick" with the owner's property or livestock.

Tagged: Jack O Lantern, Pumpkin decoration