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Why Do We Carve Pumpkins Into Jack O’ Lanterns?

Photo: iStock

Carving pumpkins has become quite the Halloween tradition but where did it come from? Why do we do this? Has it always been done around Halloween?

Technically, once a pumpkin is carved, it is then called a Jack O’ Lantern. The story and history of the Jack O’ Lantern comes from Ireland circa the 17th century. Turnips were often carved out and used as lanterns by placing a light inside. To allow the light to shine through the turnip, people would carve faces in them.

A young man by the name of Stingy Jack tricked the devil into promising him he would not have to go to hell for his sins. When Jack died, God would not let such a character into heaven but when Jack tried to get into hell, the devil wouldn’t allowed him in after being tricked. The devil sentenced Jack to roam the Earth with only a lantern for the rest of eternity. Thus came the term Jack of the Lantern which was later shortened to Jack O’ Lantern.

After the story came about, Irish used to carve scary faces into turnips and potatoes to keep unsavory spirits such as Jack away and place them in their windows. When the tradition was brought to America in the 19th century, they found that the native fruit pumpkin made the perfect Jack O’ Lantern and thus a tradition was born.


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