The History of Jack-O'-Lanterns: Carving Pumpkins On Halloween Originates In Celtic Tradition

By | October 18, 2019

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Carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns is a popular Halloween tradition that originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland. Source: (

Today, jack-o'-lanterns are a Halloween staple that almost single-handedly keep America's pumpkin farmers in business. Originally, though, the practice of carving comical or frightening faces into hollowed-out vegetables and lighting them from within had nothing to do with Halloween---even if it was just as spooky. Where did this tradition come from? How was it brought to America? Here’s the story of how jack-o'-lanterns came to be. 

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The practice of carving out vegetables begins with a folk legend about Stingy Jack. Source: (

Who Was Stingy Jack?

In the 17th-century Europe, "jack-o'-lantern" just meant "a guy with a lantern," often a night watchman, but it was soon used to describe the ghostly lights that often appeared over bogs and marshes. People whispered that the lights had something to do with Stingy Jack, the subject of a folk tale dating back to the 1500s. According to legend, Stingy Jack was such a tightwad that he scammed the Devil himself. One day, Stingy Jack wanted a drink at the nearby tavern, but as his name implies, he was too cheap to pay for it himself, so he invited the Devil to join him. When it turned out the Devil had no cash on him, Jack suggested that the Devil transform himself into a coin that could be used to pay for the drinks. Honestly, the Devil comes off as kind of a rube in this story.