Friday, October 22, 2010

The Jack-O-Lantern

Manny, Moe, and Jack (-o-Lantern)

 Part of my job as an English teacher is to share American holidays with Georgians and what better holiday than Halloween.  They don't celebrate Halloween here (yet) but they do know of it.  I'm told they have a similar tradition of "trick or treat" at New Year's when boys will ask families for treats and if they (the family) do not have any then they must sell their eldest daughter to them for 50 Tetri (55 cents); a real bargain.  I decided to go all out and make some Jack-o-lanterns to bring to some of my classes.  I did not realize how difficult it is to find pumpkins in this country.  Fortunately, our neighbor across the street, Alex, has a grandmother who works at a bazaar so he offered to take me there on a hunt for pumpkins.

Out three pumpkins ready for action.

When we arrive, his lovely grandmother is more than happy to help me find the perfect pumpkins.  We wander outside for a bit where all we find are green squash/pumpkins the size of softballs.  I load up a photo of a pumpkin on my iPhone (yay wireless Internet!) and show her what I am looking for.  She understands and we go inside.  Most of the vendors here have some pumpkins and squash but they are almost all green/yellow and fairly small.  The chance of finding a orange pumpkin, much less one larger than a soccer ball, is beginning to fade.  After some walking around, she finds a vendor with one pumpkin that fits my criteria - although still a little on the small side.  I buy it for 3 Lari and we move on in search for two more.  In the very back of the bazaar we hit the jackpot - if you can call it that; a stand with a few dozen pumpkins - all orange and of reasonable size.  Alex goes behind the counter and finds a few large ones that I can work with.  I thank Alex's grandmother by buying some flowers from her stand and off we go.

The always-helpful Nina cleaning the seeds!

When I get home, I cut the pumpkins open and start the cleaning.  Nina - always willing to help - takes on the role of cleaning the seeds which will make a tasty treat for my students.  We have many knives in the house but none of them have teeth (I plan to buy a few as Christmas presents; shhhh).  I end up finding a Swiss Army knife with a mini saw that works great for carving.  After finishing the carving, I work on baking the pumpkin seeds.  While they are cooking I thought it would be great to find the story of the Jack-o-Lantern.  After some searching, I found this story.  There are several versions of the story, but all follow the same premise of "Stingy Jack." The one I chose seems more complete and seemed easier to share with my students.

Class 8b with their Jack-o-Lantern.

The students love the Jack-o-Lanterns and the story but not so much the seeds - the teachers have no problem devouring them :-)  The following Monday I am pleasantly surprised to find several students carved their own Jack-o-Lanterns and brought them to school to share.

Happy Halloween!

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