There are many different versions of the origins of Halloween and its favorite symbol: the carved pumpkin known as a Jack O’ Lantern. Most of the stories are Celtic or European in origin. To these ancient peoples, this was not only the dying part of the year, but also a time when the New Year began. Crops had been harvested and it was time to slaughter enough meat to make it through the long winter ahead. It was also the time when the spirit world was closest to the physical world and you needed some kind of protection from the evil ones. Since there were no pumpkins growing in the Celtic countries, you carved the figure of a face into a turnip or a rutabaga and hoped that this Talisman would attract the evil spirits to it rather than to you, or at least throw the spirits off track a bit.
Like so many of the other Pagan holidays, the Christians put their own bent on it. In the New World, pumpkins and gourds were plentiful and a lot easier to carve than the turnips. Instead of the evil spirits that roamed the land, it was the Christian Devil. The Jack part of the Jack O’ Lantern involves a drunken and some say, miserly man named Jack. He has several encounters with the Devil and tricks him each time, narrowly avoiding the Devil snatching his soul. When he finally dies and gets to the gates of heaven, he is denied access because of his sins and sent to Hell, but the Devil, remembering all of the trouble he caused him, doesn’t want him either. He tells Jack to go back to Earth. Jack pleads that the way back is dark and that he’ll never find his way, so the Devil cuts him a break and gives him a glowing ember from the fires of Hell, which Jack promptly places into a turnip he was eating. Having no home either in Heaven or Hell, Jack is doomed to walk the land forever, carrying his lighted turnip with him.
So each year millions of pumpkins are sacrificed, giving up their lives to be a symbol of Halloween. If you feel that there is enough carnage and carving going on at this time of year, then here are a few kinder and gentler ways to decorate your pumpkin without sticking a knife into it:
The David Bowie Jack O’ Lantern: You can make your pumpkin glamorous by brushing it with a thick layer of craft glue and then sprinkling it with different kinds and colors of glitter. You can mix iridescent, metallic, and crystal glitter together for a shimmering effect that will catch the spooky light that abounds on Halloween night.
The Punk Pumpkin: You can decorate your pumpkin by using a few household items and then pushing them right into the skin of the pumpkin in different patterns and designs. Metal studs, upholstery pins and paperclips can be used: maybe a little more painful for the pumpkin, but still not as bad as going under the knife.
The Painted Pumpkin: Outline a face on your pumpkin using black paint or a marker and then paint the rest of him using one or more colors of metallic paint. Or, you could substitute nontoxic glow-in-the-dark paint that you can get at hobby stores.
The Pin Head Pumpkin: Turn Jack into a pinhead by fashionably piercing him with some straight pins. You could even link the pins together with bits of different colored thread for that homespun look.
The Mirrored Pumpkin: layer your pumpkin with spray-on polyurethane or a shiny silver or black glossy metallic paint so you can see yourself reflected in the face of the pumpkin. What could be scarier than that?