Carving pumpkins is a beloved tradition in most households, but this history of the jack-o’-lantern dates back much farther than just your own family’s Halloween festivities. Here are a few interesting points about the history of the spooky, silly jack-o’-lantern.
- The name “jack-o’-lantern” is derived from a 17th century British term that described a man carrying a lantern, usually a night watchman. Townspeople began to call the mysterious lights that they often saw over the wetlands "jack-o’-lanterns" because they thought that they were ghosts or spirits.
- Irish tradition also uses the term jack-o’-lantern in a story about Stingy Jack, a man who was forced to wander the earth for all eternity with only the light from a dull ember.
- In some parts of Great Britain, it became customary for children to carry jack-o’-lanterns door-to-door on All Saints Day to represent the souls of deceased relatives.
- Irish immigrants brought the tradition of the jack-o’-lantern with them to the United States, and they soon began to use the more readily available pumpkin instead of the turnip.
- Pumpkin carving and the jack-o’-lantern didn’t become a part of Halloween tradition until the late 19th century, almost 200 years after it was initially invented.