As I sit here sipping hot apple cider and watching football the colors of fall are just outside my window under a blanket of darkness. I love this time of year but the first official holiday of the fourth quarter is one I could do without. Halloween and carving pumpkins are really not high on my priority list.
But, last year our five-year-old took an interest in carving pumpkins. I tried to put if off by ignoring him but, like most five years old, he does not easily forget something once it takes root. A friend shared with me a book she'd heard about that gave pumpkin carving a whole new meaning. I thought about it. Should Christians be carving pumpkins?
Can there be a “better reason” to do so that preparation for a holiday with much darker roots than candy?
Photo by Fotomek
The Jack-O-Lantern's Roots
I've read a few variations of the origins of carving pumpkins. Actually, the tradition started in Europe and Ireland with gourds, not pumpkins. One story, based on Irish folklore, tell of a man named Stingy Jack who, after tricking the Devil twice was not allowed into Heaven or Hell when he died. So, he put a piece of burning coal in a carved gourd and has been roaming the earth ever since. People carved gourds and turnips to ward off Jack and other spirits from their homes. You can read more about this version here.
Another line of thought suggests that turnips were carved and lit to light the way for the walking dead during the winter months when they came up from the ground and roamed the earth. The lighted veggies would frighten the spirits away from the home.
Others claim it's unlikely this is true because the Celts would not be eager to waste root vegetables that were a necessary staple in the diet, especially over the cold Winter months.
I read too that Scottish children carried around carved turnips called “bogies” to scare away witches.
A real surprise was some information I found on Wiccan sites that call costumes and jack-o-lanterns the “non-nonsensical” part of the holiday which has much deeper, ritualistic meanings. Carving pumpkins is not part of satanic worship or ritual. The Pagan's Path says,
“No longer is Halloween a religious festival here in the US. It has become commercialized as an event for kids to have fun, play dress up and be scared by ghouls and ghosts. It has become nothing more than a secular holiday.
Those who have tried to link Halloween to Samhain are also missing the boat. As Halloween, All Hallows Eve are Christian created holidays devised by the early Churches of Europe as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. The celebrations were indeed taken from pagan practices, but their purposes have long since been corrupted and are no longer pagan in nature. Right down to being practiced on October 31st.
Some one asked me if I cared that a nearby town was attempting to change Halloween from October 31st to the last Friday of each October. My response is why should I mind? Halloween is a Christian holiday, do with it what you will.
The modern celebrations of Halloween do not take away or alter the spiritual significance of Samhain for pagan practitioners. Our Sabbat is still intact and still honored with reverence and in the traditional methods practiced by our ancient pagan ancestors.”
Regardless of the latter, I do not believe dressing up as scary ghosts and goblins and being scared to death at haunted hay rides is a “fun” and “innocent” thing but clearly, the commercialized Halloween we know is to the Pagan what commercialize Christmas is to the Christian.
A Simple Illustration of God's Amazing Grace
When a friend told me about The Parable of The Pumpkin Patch I was intrigued.
The book walks through the life a pumpkin from seed to harvest to carving showing the scriptural significance of each phase. The scriptures are listed on the pages which make for a great conversation starter with your kids. The farmer's story from planting to carving is a great illustration of the work God does in us as we become new creations, dying to our old selves and becoming fully alive in Christ and therefore, becoming a light in the dark world.
We decided to carve a pumpkin following along with the story in the Parable of the Pumpkin Patch. I incorporated some learning fun activities making our pumpkin carving a mini pumpkin and spiritual lesson. Here's what we did:
- Watching a pumpkin grow – We used this real time and time lapse Youtube video.
- Pumpkin learning – This pumpkin-themed pre-k pack was fun. We reinforced the spiritual story by putting our new book in Wyatt's reading box.
- Pumpkin picking – We weren't able to go as a family this year, but Wyatt and I, along with my mom, picked out our pumpkins. At home, we talked about how God made the pumpkin and we prayed, thanking God for his creation.
- An evening of carving – We'd read The Parable of the Pumpkin Patch again and talked about the how Jesus comes into our hearts and makes us new. Then, we spread out paper on the table and carved two cute pumpkins. In bed that night, we prayed that our pumpkins would be a reminder of the light that should shine out of us.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
~ Matthew 5:14 ESV
Additional resources: Other great resources include:
- My Happy Pumpkin: God's Love Shining Through Me – a second book to reinforce the concept of how God makes us new.
- Christian Homeschool Hub – has a great selection of unit studies and lessons for all ages.
- Paradise Praises – has a great list of 15 Educational Pumpkin Activity Ideas
Fear of Evil or Full of Truth?
One thing I noticed when researching the jack-o-lantern was the motivation factor in many of these “reasons” was fear. If Christ lives in us, we should not live in fear. The Bible is clear, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1: 7
However, we also know that the spiritual battle is real. There are demons and demonic spirits whose assignments are to cause havoc, confusion, chaos, sickness and death. We cannot be ignorant of this and assume we live alone in this world. The spirit realm is real.
But if I want to ward off evil spirits and protect my home and family, I'll anoint my doors and windows with oil and plead the blood of Jesus over my family. We are covered by the blood of the Lamb, we are the light in the darkness and I need not fear evil spirits on Halloween or any other day of the year.
I will not fear evil spirits lurking about. I will use my authority in Christ Jesus to protect my family and I'll carve a pumpkin as an illustration of what Christ has done in me.
So the question remains, should Christians be carving pumpkins? Only your family can answer that. If you believe it's demonic, then no. If you believe it can be a teaching tool and a statement of faith, then yes. I believe the Parable of the Pumpkin Patch draws out a great illustration that is an opportunity for a spiritual lesson.
We enjoyed pumpkin carving as a lesson about Jesus and I think we'll continue to do so each year digging deeper and deeper into the parable.