Botanically speaking, pumpkins are just large gourds (cucurbits) of which we raise many types here as they’re an intrinsic part of the Winter fare here being served up baked (butternut squash particularly is good this way), in pies and tossed into stews for a bit of additional flavour and thickness.
It’s really easy to understand why Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comics strip, had one of his characters, Linus van Pelt, believing in a being called the Great Pumpkin. He sits in a pumpkin patch on All Hallows Eve waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear, but the being never does. Linus though never loses faith that next year will be different.
It’s important for me to stress that, like Scotland at large, the Kirk has fallen which is to say that the Inhabitants of this Estate are not really Christian though we sort of celebrate the holidays of Easter, Christmas, Twelfth Night and so forth but only as an excuse to hold a festive celebration involving the entire Estate community.
So it is with pumpkins as they represent for us both the sacred and the profane. Yes we carve pumpkins ever year to place around the Estate. You might know that the Irish create the idea of jack-o’-lantern which were spirit catchers to keep the restless souls of the dead who past between the veils on All Hallows Eve though they used turnips as pumpkins weren’t cultivated in Ireland at that point.
So we invite the younger children who board at the School of The Imagination to a day of hot cider, making and eating doughnuts, games of various sorts, and of course pumpkin carving. I always grow more than enough pumpkins to set aside good ones for this endeavour.
It’s fun for me even after decades of doing this day to watch them and more than a few staff makes their imaginations seem real.
Now comes the interesting aspect of these jack-o’-lanterns. I think it’s been mentioned here that we sit on the Border with the Realm where the Fey dwell. Most folk just light their jack-o’-lanterns with was candles or even little electrical lights, but that’s far too mundane for us.
Ours get lit by what one young visitor here called leaf dragons as these small fey look like something akin to a red or yellow dragon comprised of leafs. At night, it amuses them to alight for a time inside one of the jack-o’-lanterns. Sometimes just briefly, sometimes for long minutes before flitting to another jack-o’-lantern.
The effect at that is amazing as we hold a contest for the most interesting place to locate a jack-o’-lantern be it high in the crook of an ancient oak or lining the rafters of the former Church sanctuary. It’s truly joyful and telling rrifying to walk around the Estate uilding and the area seeing which jack-o’-lanterns will visible.
They’re up for a fortnight through Samhain which we also celebrate with the selection of an Oak King but that’s another tale. Because the Fey light our lanterns, every one of them gets used again be it for feed for our hogs, in pumpkin tarts and pies or be it in our exemplary pumpkin ale.
Speaking of pumpkin ale, let’s head to the Green Man Pun for a pint or two of it.