The month of October has left us, leaving behind sweet memories of fancy holiday meals and hot comfort food to compensate for the cold, rainy nights.
October is often thought to be the most difficult month for a university student. Gloomy weather, midterms, and exhaustion aren’t exactly the ideal ingredients for happiness. Well, October isn’t all THAT bad, right? I mean when you start a month with roasted Turkey, and end with plenty of pumpkin and candy, you really can’t complain….
What’s interesting is that in the context of UBC, both Halloween and Thanksgiving seem quite insignificant to majority of the international students. Most, including myself, wonder “what’s the big deal with a roasted turkey on Thanksgiving”, or “what is it with Halloween and pumpkins?” I’ve done a bit of research, so let’s take a look.
As for Halloween, records indicate that it has roots in three different traditions and festivals, namely the Samhain festival from the Celts, the Roman festival of Pomona, and All Saint’s and All Souls Day.
I’m pretty sure that by now, you are rolling your eyes in boredom and saying to yourself “enough with the history lessons, Atif. Tell me about the food!!” Okay, bear with me for a while, I’ll get there.
So, moving on to the question at hand. “Why pumpkins?”. So basically, with the Irish immigration in the 19th century, North America was exposed to these European festivals and the idea of carving potatoes and turnips into lanterns. In America, this was modified to the more local pumpkin and now the jack-o-lantern is an international symbol for Halloween. As with all festivals there was food of course, and what better than to make use of the local, in season pumpkin, particularly when so many of them were being used for making lanterns!!
That’s that with Halloween, but what about Thanksgiving? In essence, Thanksgiving dates back to the fall harvest celebration of the indigenous people of North America. When settlers from Europe came in, they too brought along a new harvest festival. The first “Thanksgiving” per se, was held in 1578 by a crew to celebrate their arrival in North America. Now onto turkeys, right? So turns out the wild turkey is native to North America, so much so that Benjamin Franklin, believed it was more suitable than a bald eagle as the national bird of USA. Say what? Colonists used to hunt turkeys back in 1621, and well a turkey was more substantial than a chicken or any other bird (excluding an ostrich, obviously). And more so because a living turkey is not worth as much as a living chicken, because who on earth eats turkey eggs?
Well, that’s that from me I suppose. This article was meant to talk about food in October, but turned out to be a history lesson on why we do what we do in October, and why we eat what we eat when we do what we do. Well, I leave you now with knowledge on the history of the festivals (you can try that out on a first date) and a new tongue twister.
Enjoy rest of the term, and good luck with finals!