A pumpkin is a fruit and is a member of the gourd family (Cucurbitacae), which also includes squash, cucumbers, gherkins, and melons. Strange as it may seem, the carved pumpkin was associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween. The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who was born in 1807, wrote in "The Pumpkin" (1850):
Oh!—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
Despite the colorful legends, the term jack-o'-lantern originally meant a night watchman, or man with a lantern, with the earliest known use in the mid-17th century; and later, meaning an ignis fatuus or will-o'-the-wisp.