History of the Jack-O’-Lantern

by Taylor Cotie

Colder nights, yellow and red leaves, pumpkins everywhere – Spooky Season has come and gone, with many things that have happened to show for it. In October, there is no more classic Halloween image than a glowing pumpkin. For decades, carving a pumpkin has been a favored tradition in America. So, why do we carve pumpkins on Halloween?

The reason we carve jack-o’- lanterns has a long backstory, including why they are carved in the first place. Jack-O’-Lanterns trace their origins back centuries to Old World traditions in Ireland. The name jack-o’-lantern started in the early 1600s from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. It all began from an Irish myth about Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil for his own financial gain.

When Jack died, God did not allow him into heaven and the devil did not let him into hell, so Jack was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity. In Ireland and Scotland, many people started carving scary faces into potatoes or turnips and placing them in the window to scare away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. Irish immigrants eventually moved to the U.S. and they began carving jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins and it became an essential part of Halloween festivities. In the month of October today, you will see thousands of pumpkins with faces and other things carved into them almost everywhere you go.

Additionally, who would not like pumpkin painting? Not all pumpkins have to be carved – the Greensboro College Honors house held an event on October 21 at 3:30 p.m. that was open for all students to come out and paint some pumpkins. With popcorn and a fun afternoon of socializing, students let their creativity run wild while designing pumpkins that would be donated to Well-Spring Retirement Community.

Students decorating their own pumpkins.
Some of the different pumpkins painted by students at GC (photo courtesy of Polly Anton).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s