The History of Jack-O-Lanterns
The history of Jack-O’-Lantern goes back hundreds of years–and it did not start out with our traditional pumpkin. The Irish were the first to use Jack-O’-Lanterns as a symbol of Halloween to scare off evil spirits like Stingy Jack. They used turnips, potatoes or beets instead of the pumpkins we use today.
Stingy Jack is a mythical Irishman who invited the devil to have a drink one day. When the Devil accepted his invite, Jack did not want to pay for their drinks. He “tricked” the devil by promising his soul in exchange for the devil turning himself into a coin so he could pay for his “treat.” After the devil agreed, Stingy Jack decided to keep the “devil coin” in his pocket next to the cross he always carried. This prevented the devil turning back to his original self. Jack eventually let the devil free under the condition that the devil could not claim Jack’s soul.
When Jack died, God decided he did not want a man who made deals with the devil in heaven. The devil couldn’t take him in hell because of their agreement. Stingy Jack was left to roam the earth for eternity with a burning coal in a carved-out turnip to light his way. Irish immigrants brought this tradition of the Jack-O’-Lantern and Halloween over to the New World, where we still celebrate it today using great orange pumpkins.
I keep this tradition alive with my family by hosting a pumpkin carving party every October. My girls love it. Before our guests arrive I write each child’s name on a pumpkin and scatter them in the backyard. When the guests arrive they love to hunt for the pumpkins. Here are five easy steps to carving a pumpkin.
- Cut a hole in the top or bottom of the pumpkin. Using a pumpkin carving knife, cut a circle at the top or bottom of the pumpkin.
- Scoop out the flesh. Using a scraper and a spoon, scrape out the flesh and seeds of the pumpkin.
- Create your design. Draw your pumpkin face on paper and trace with black marker. Next, tape your design to the pumpkin and, using a needle tool, poke holes along the design.
- Carving out your pumpkin. Using a carving knife, cut along the design. You may have to repeat this step. Push out the carved sections of the pumpkin.
- Illuminate your pumpkin. Light up your pumpkin using a battery powered pumpkin light or a string of LEDlights.
This process can be very messy; carve your pumpkin outside if you can. If not, carve it on a garbage bag; this makes cleaning up easier. Happy Carving!
Have a Happy and safe Halloween from our family to yours.