The Squash that Conquered America: Pumpkin Symbolism in the United States




pumpkin, squash, gourd, symbol, Halloween, Thanksgiving


Pumpkin has always played an important role in American culture. Throughout history, it carried a plethora of meanings and connotations. Since European arrival to the New World, the meaning of the squash changed drastically from a product crucial for survival due to its practical features to the one that carries primarily a symbolic meaning. The shift happened by series of small changes with a significant impact of fall holidays: Thanksgiving and Halloween. Thanks to them, the squash began to be associated not only with the seasonal traditions, but with America itself. The pumpkin constantly appears in cultural texts such as poems and graphics, usually as a symbol of the fall or one of the holidays of that part of the year, although some representations depict it as an emblem of the American nation. Its association with the United States is now recognized across the world. At the same time, pumpkin significance extends and evolves into new forms. In modern America, it is not the pumpkin itself that reminds of the fall, but the spice based on a pumpkin pie. Thus, pumpkin becomes a link in a chain of symbolic references.

Author Biography

Maciej Kapek, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland

Is an MA student of the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora and a BA student of Romanian Philology in Jagiellonian University in Cracow. His research interests comprise cultural dimensions of food, national myths, and factors contributing to collective identity. He has published papers on Puritan cuisine in New England, frontier myth in American tall tales, and the myth of John Paul II in contemporary Polish culture. Currently, he is researching the 19th century immigrant cuisine in America, as well as modern aspects of the Dacian myth in Romanian culture.


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How to Cite

Kapek, M. “The Squash That Conquered America: Pumpkin Symbolism in the United States”. Ad Americam, vol. 23, June 2022, pp. 53-63, doi:10.12797/AdAmericam.23.2022.23.03.