AUSTIN (KXAN) – What is the first thing that gets you excited for the fall season? The shorter days? That first whiff of cinnamon and nutmeg coming from your coworker’s cup? Or is it carving pumpkins?
What is the history of a Jack-o’-lantern and why do we carve pumpkins for Halloween?
It all starts with an Irish myth about a guy named Stingy Jack who was a blacksmith that tricked the devil on multiple occasions. When he died, God didn’t let him into heaven, and the devil didn’t let him in to hell.
So he was forced to roam the Earth for eternity. As a parting gift, the devil left him with a burning ember, so he could at least roam with a light.
In Ireland, he would carve demonic faces out of turnips to frighten away Jack’s soul. This practice would later evolve to where the carvings would keep away all evil spirits.
When the Irish immigrated to America, the practice of carving faces came with them. Turnips, however, weren’t native, so they switched to carving pumpkins. The ember from the folklore later evolved to placing candles inside the pumpkin.
So how did the Jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkin carving get associated with Halloween? Halloween is based upon the Celtic festival Samhain, which takes place Nov. 1. This festival marks the end of the harvest season and the start of winter, or the “darker half” of the year.
It was believed that on this day, a portal would allow for the souls that died that year to return to visit their homes.
Generations later, when the Christian church shifted All Saints’ Day to the same date, Samhain and All Saints’ Day merged into one. Their traditions merged as well, which included costume wearing to disguise yourself from the wandering souls, and of course pumpkin carving.
All Hallows Eve, taking place the night before All Saints’ Day, would later become what we now know as Halloween on Oct. 31.