By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Like trees for Christmas, or eggs for Easter, pumpkins pop up everywhere around Halloween.

But how did pumpkins become the symbol of Halloween? Good Question.

We use pumpkins for a lot of things: Backdrops for cute kid photos, delicious pumpkin pie, and, of course, the “PSL.”

But, why do we cut designs into them during the month of October? For this answer, we turned to Lesley Ballatyne, author of five books on Halloween.

Carving vegetables was big in Europe for centuries. They were easy decorations. The French dug into big beets at Christmas, the Irish and Scottish carved faces into turnips this time of year. It was a way for them to remind people the spirit world is present as we move into winter.

(credit: CBS)

Remember way back then, this was the beginning of a cold, dark and dangerous season. So, they needed some way to scare away the evil spirits. As the Irish immigrants made their way to America, they brought along this carving tradition. They also switched out the turnips for pumpkins, mostly because there were so many of them in the United States and they are easier to carve.

But where does “Jack-o-Lantern” come from? That is likely an old Irish legend about a man named Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil more than a few times. When Stingy Jack died, he was not allowed in heaven, and the devil would not let him in hell. So, the devil sent Jack off with a burning coal — which he put in his carved out turnip. And, the restless soul of Jack of the Lantern has been roaming the earth ever since.

Fast-forward to the late 1800s, when Halloween party hostesses started using pumpkins as decorations, and people started carving things like Cinderella and Snow White on them.

And fast-forward to 2003 — when Pumpkin Spice Latte was born!

Heather Brown