Things I have learnt about pumpkins recently
Christians are often accused of having their major celebrations on pagan festivals. This is true actually, but not for the reason most people seem to think. It's not that Christmas, or Easter, or whatever are 'really' pagan festivals; it's that Christians have deliberately chosen to put their celebration of something good and beautiful and true in the place of something less good. In the same way many churches are on the site of former pagan sites of worship. It's to do with not avoiding the shadier side of spirituality, but instead bringing it into the light and doing it properly. Like putting a candle into a dark place.
Anyway, we've just had Hallowe'en, which is really just another way of saying the day before All Saints Day. Again it's a date that Christians 'took over' from pagans. In many places Christians celebrate by having a 'light party' and I used to try to make the day special for my kids by having a baking session where we made little iced biscuits in the shape of fishes and crosses to give out to any small witches and ghouls who might knock at the door. You'd have to ask them whether that worked or not.
So this year we had L's smallest granddaughter with us for the day, and we thought it would be fun to do some pumpkin carving. Only we didn't want to carve scary ghoul faces. We wanted to do something wholesome and lovely.
The first thing I discovered (some weeks previously) is that it is not easy to grow pumpkins. I had a rampant plant covered in flowers, but there was something lacking. A male pumpkin plant probably. Who knows. And so to Tesco's.
The second learning point was that Tesco plays to the market. A small pumpkin was £1. There were no large pumpkins, only something called "Extra-Terrestrial Alien Pumpkins" which were a bit bigger and cost three times as much. We bought some of those. Obviously. (The following day there were a lot for sale at 10p each. But we didn't want them by that time.)
The third thing I discovered is that you can get patterns for any design you might conceivably wish to carve from the internet. There is a whole culture of non-pagan pumpkin designs out there, including an incredibly intricate design showing Jesus in profile as Hollywood might imagine him; the sort of thing that, if you could convince anyone it had occurred naturally, you could found an entire pilgrimage-related cult upon. We chose a cute cat design.
Fourth: carving pumpkins is hard. Way too hard for a four year-old. She got bored and wandered off after about 30 seconds. I was determined to have two lovely christian pumpkins lit up by candles in our front windows and so I carried on regardless, sweating with the effort. The first had three somewhat irregular cross shapes. The second was intended to say 'Jesus Christ is the Light of the World', but by the time I had spent an hour on the word 'Jesus', having had to stick some missing parts in with cocktail sticks, I just stopped at 'Jesus' and then added the shape of a candle. L meanwhile completed the cat design to the eventual grudging approval of his grandchild. We inserted lighted candles. Photos were taken.
Fifth: if you leave a tealight in a pumpkin for long enough, it cooks it.
Sixth: cooked pumpkins implode softly, and then go mouldy.
Seventh: Mouldy pumpkins liquefy.
Eighth: If you live in a small village, and leave a liquefying mouldy pumpkin in your front window for a fortnight, having forgotten it was there, you leave yourself wide open to ridicule. Yes, reader, this morning a 15-year old laughed right in my face about this.
Still, it was fun: Next year, the Hollywood Jesus Pumpkin!