The History of the Jack-o-Lantern

Blog by Robin Crocker

It’s Halloween time and we all participate in some pretty kooky traditions. Ever wondered where the tradition of Jack-o-Lanterns started? Where did we ever get the silly idea to put candles in a pumpkin?? Well, it turns out that back in the 1800s, in the land of our forefathers (England, Ireland, Scotland) there was (and still is) the festival of Samhain. Traditionally, the time of 31 October and 1 November is the time when faeries and spirits are believed to be the most active – and lanterns are used to light one’s way on the dark night of Samhain, to memorialize the spirits, or to protect oneself. But what about the pumpkin carving?

Carving faces into pumpkin is actually a totally American concept, adapted from the old world where they would use whatever the had they most of…… usually turnips! That’s right, turnips. To keep the spirits happy, they would carve faces of faeries and spirits into the turnip, place a candle inside, and place the turnip-o-lantern in their windows or stoops, just like we do today. Immigrants from Ireland and England brought the tradition over to North America where they found pumpkins that were larger and easier to carve.

And that’s how the jack-o-lantern came to be! The truth is stranger than fiction.

Happy carving!

2 Comments

  1. I didn’t know this either! I love that they do it to beckon the faeries ^_^ I guess I better start carving faerie faces!

  2. Wow. I never knew that. Learn something new all the time! :-)

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