Every Halloween, people carve a Jack O Lantern out of a pumpkin, but did you know that this tradition originated in Ireland? Back then, it was a carved turnip, not a pumpkin and it is related to the old Irish legend of Stingy Jack (also known as Drunk Jack).
People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.”
According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.
Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
But when Jack died, God would not allow him into heaven and the Devil would not allow him into hell. The Devil was so upset that he sent Jack off into the night with only a burning coal to light his way in the darkness. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since.
Instead of “Willo the wisps” the strange lights you see on the moors, Irish people called them “Jack of the Lanterns,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away evil spirits.
When Irish people emigrated to America, they brought these old traditions with them. Because turnips were scarce and pumpkins were plentiful, jack-o’-lanterns were carved out of pumpkins instead.