How the Jack-o-Lantern Became Part of Halloween

Halloween and Jack-o-Lanterns are a Perfect Pair

What would Halloween be like without Jack-o-Lanterns? It would be inconceivable. Like Christmas without Santa or Easter without the Bunny. But how did Jack-o-Lanterns first become associated with Halloween? The first Jack-o-Lanterns started in Ireland and Scotland and they didn't use pumpkins. Pumpkins grow in America not in Ireland or Scotland. For hundreds of years before Christianity came to Britain and Ireland, the people celebrated Samhain, a festival that celebrated the end of the old year and beginning of the new. It was said that during this time of in between, the spirits of the dead had a chance to roam. In order to ward away the evil spirits, the Celts made Jack-o-Lanterns.  The Jack-o-Lanterns were made from carved turnips or potatoes that they put on the window sill to frighten away evil spirits. In England, they carved scary faces on large beets.

Photos by Flightkeeper

Click thumbnail to view full-size

The Legend of Stingy Jack

According to various Irish legends, the Jack-o-Lantern was named after a cheap guy called Stingy Jack. One of the legends had Stingy Jack invite the Devil for a drink. Jack was so cheap that he concocted a plan to get free drinks. The Devil, being a devil thought it was a great plan. Jack convinced the devil to turn itself into a coin to pay for their drinks and when the proprietor wasn't looking to turn back into a devil again. But Jack was after more than a free drink, since Jack has been so stingy all his life and cheated many people, he wanted to make sure that the Devil didn't claim his soul once he passed away. Instead of using the coin to pay for the drinks, he kept the devil-turned-coin in his pocket next to a cross to prevent the Devil from turning back into human form. Jack made the Devil promise not to bother him ever again and the Devil agreed.

When Jack died, he went up to heaven to see if he could get in but they wouldn't let him enter because he had such a stingy heart. Jack was told to go to Hell. However, when Jack arrived in Hell, the Devil turned him away as well! He didn't forget what Jack did to him. Jack was made to wander the earth and the Devil threw him a burning coal which Jack put inside a turnip as a holder so he could see his way clear at night and everyone could see him and know he was cursed.

When the Irish, Scots, and English immigrants came to America, they brought with them this custom of carving vegetables with scary faces to turn away spirits. However, instead of using beets, turnips or potatoes they found that the American pumpkin made a much better Jack-o-Lantern.

In America carving pumpkins was initially a tradition that was part of the harvest season. Since the harvest season and Halloween coincided and often interlapped the Jack-o-Lantern became part of Halloween.

These days, everyone loves to carve a pumpkin and it doesn't have to be scary. But now you know the how and why the Jack-o-Lantern became part of Halloween.

How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern Totem Pole

More by this Author

Comments 11 comments

jiberish profile image

jiberish 6 years ago from florida

Interesting! Good Hub.

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Good hub for HubMob. I liked this version; I've read three or four by this time. Stingy Jack. I like it!

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Thank you for your comments Jiberish and Paradise. I'm glad you liked it.

Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 6 years ago from Ohio

Cool story...I'd never heard that before. Thanks! :)

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Thanks for visiting TC.

Stacie L profile image

Stacie L 6 years ago

nice hub.I like your story:)

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Hi Stacie, I'm glad you liked it and thanks for dropping by.

C.J. Wright 6 years ago

That was a very cool story.

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

CJ, I had a lot of fun writing this hub. Thanks.

zadrobi profile image

zadrobi 6 years ago from Carbondale, IL

You know what FK... I think the people that read this hub are probably among the 3% of Americans that actually know what Halloween is. Personally, I would like to know how the whole candy thing got started ( a ploy set in motion by the dentists of the country?) :) Have a good Halloween weekend! Excellent hub as always.

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Hi Zach, for most people Halloween is all about the candy! Thanks for visiting, have a great Halloween.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article