Submitted by countylibrary on


For centuries, the jack-o’-lantern has been a staple of Halloween tradition. So how and why did the carving of pumpkins become associated with this spooky holiday?

According to Irish folklore, a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack” fooled the devil a few times, making the devil promise not to bother him for over 10 years and not to claim his soul. Upon Jack’s death, the devil kept his promise and did not take his soul. Unfortunately, God would not allow such an unsavory into heaven. The devil sent Jack into the dark with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack placed the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish children would put a piece of glowing coal in a carved potato, turnip or beet to commemorate this Irish trickster of the devil, who later became known as “Jack of the Lantern” and then “jack-o’-lantern.”

Other Irish and Scottish stories tell of people carving scary faces and characters into turnips, potatoes and beets.These spooky edibles were placed in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other evil spirits. English immigrants brought these traditions to America where they found that the Native American variety of pumpkins were easier to carve and made perfect lanterns rather than large beets.  So the next time your front porch looks a little too welcoming, remember the legend of Stingy Jack.