One of my favorite things about this time of year used to be pumpkin ales. I love them. Er, loved them. *heaves a heavy, dramatic sigh* Post Road (acquired some years ago by Brooklyn Brewery) and Dogfish Head had two of my favorite pumpkin ales. I'm not sure if one can really pull that much pumpkin flavor from the beer, but the mixture of the spices and the smoothness of the beers were what really drew me in. Plus, I love fall, and the flavors of the beers always seemed to mix well with the gradual changeover from green to red, yellow, and orange of the fall leaves.
However, as you know, I'm not a big fan of pumpkins themselves, stemming from a traumatic childhood experience in which a pumpkin started talking to me. It might have not been just the pumpkin suddenly finding its voice as I drew near; the entire scene was scary, because that house looked like it should be haunted.
Anyway, nearly three decades later, and I still stare at those cold, cruel, demonic faces carved into the empty orange gourds and I fantasize about them suddenly being no more. Thankfully, we have the internet these days. And when you mix the internet, some pumpkins, and some bored people, you get videos! Here's a newer video involving the detonation of pumpkins that I had not seen before. Enjoy!
The one blowing up under water was a nice touch.
Jack O' Lanterns (or Jack O' The Lantern) were not originally pumpkins. The tradition started in Ireland and on Great Britain back around the time when Roman influence was still felt in that part of the world. The pumpkin is a North American vegetable, so it stands to reason that there weren't any pumpkins around for the old Celtic peoples to carve up into garish, illuminated faces. Thus, before the rise of the pumpkin, people used turnips to carve into Jack O' Lanterns.
The Jack O' Lantern was used to frighten off evil or bad spirits that might be hanging around the fields and crops. In the ancient Celtic tradition, the end of the summer was celebrated during a festival called Samhain (which means "summer's end"). Like many other cultures, the Celts celebrated the harvest by thanking and venerating various fertility gods and goddesses during the months of the harvest. The Celts also believed that the boundaries that existed between our world and the world that housed the spirits of the dead and demons grew very thin during Samhain. Thus, the Jack O' Lantern was used to ward off those dastardly spirits that might otherwise spoil the harvest and ruin everyone's good time.
Do you know what the Chinese used to frighten off evil spirits hellbent on wrecking the harvest? Explosives!!! I wonder if it would be possible to carve a pumpkin using explosives???
Well, I'll be damned. I guess it is possible.
Anyway, thanks to the prevalence of witchcraft...or alleged witchcraft in North America, the pumpkin became associated with witches. It was a natural progression to make pumpkins associated with the supernatural. Plus, I can only imagine that it's a helluva lot easier to carve a pumpkin than it is to carve a turnip, but that is purely conjecture.
So there you have it. Pumpkins: they make great beer, better pie, excellent demon protection and fucking fabulous shrapnel.