The jack-o-lantern is an iconic symbol of the fall season in the United States. Although carving up a jack-o-lantern is a popular American pastime, the tradition in fact has its roots in Irish folklore. According to legend, an Irishman named Stingy Jack was too cheap to pay for a proper burial, so he was condemned to roam the Earth with a single lump of coal to light his way.
Eventually, the story goes that Jack hollowed out a turnip for his head, placed the coal inside, and voila! The first jack-o-lantern.
Nowadays, Americans love to make their own jack-o-lanterns for fun and to decorate for Halloween. Pumpkins are a huge part of the season and carving a scary — or funny — face into a pumpkin is a great way to get in the Halloween spirit! After all, it’s a simple and fun activity that everyone can get into, no matter their age or skill level. It’s also the perfect activity to participate in during a cultural exchange program in the U.S.
This year, au pairs and host families in Ann Arbor, Michigan, gathered for the 4th annual AuPairCare Pumpkin Carving Contest!
The event proved to be a healing and uplifting time for many au pairs who frequently deal with homesickness around this time of year.
One such example was Au Pair Paula from Colombia, who lost her biological mom to COVID last year. Paula faced even more personal challenges when her father was hospitalized this year with an unrelated illness. Paul explained that connecting with members of the AuPairCare community made her feel less alone in such a difficult time in her life.
Through the simple act of pumpkin carving, Paula and the other participants were able to slow down and appreciate the little moments in life, from seeing the finished jack-o-lantern to enjoying conversation with friends and loved ones.
"I feel lucky to have experienced this as my last event," she said, thanking the AuPairCare staff members who offered her emotional support. She also added that she will "take Michigan in her heart" back home to Colombia.