by John Morgan
The iconic Halloween symbol of a pumpkin was a New World replacement for the two red-headed-stepchildren of the vegetable kingdom known by their common names the turnip and the beet, as well as their equally esthetically challenged dirt dwelling cousin the potato.
Originally the turnip and potato were carved and illuminated with candles and placed in Irish doors and windows to ward of an interesting spirit named “Stingy Jack” (he deserves his own post) and other wandering spooks.
The Scots used turnips as well, but the English celebrated the season drumming to a different beet (Warning bad pun ahead - proceed at your own risk! Did you know that it is a little known historical fact that when an English man or woman was cut during the carving process they called their injuries “beetnicks”).
So when Irish immigrants came to America and they discovered the "gourdgeous" pumpkin, kersplash went the turnip and the potatoes into the stew pot, and out came the carving knife and the Jack-O-Lantern was born!