For many families, it’s a Halloween tradition to carve Jack o’ lanterns to display outside the home. Whether spooky or silly, the glowing faces carved into pumpkins are a regular sight this time of year. But how did the tradition get started? Did you know the original Jack o’ lanterns weren’t even pumpkins?
It all started with an Irish folktale about a man called Stingy Jack. According to legend, Stingy Jack tricked the devil, not once but multiple times. When he eventually died, he wasn’t allowed into heaven or hell due to his dealings with the devil, but was left to roam the earth with only a burning coal to light his way. Stingy Jack put the coal in a carved out turnip and became known as Jack of the Lantern, or Jack o’ lantern, forever wandering the night alone.
Originally, Jack o’ lanterns were made out of turnips and potatoes to more closely resemble Jack’s own lantern. They were carved with spooky faces and placed near homes to scare away any meandering spirits like Jack himself. When a large amount of Irish immigrants came to America in the 1800s, they brought the tradition with them, and soon discovered that pumpkins were far easier to carve and decorate.
Nowadays, many Jack o’ lanterns are decorated with funny, creative and spooky faces, scenes and more. Any way you carve it, decorating pumpkins is festive fun for the season. Happy Halloween!