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A Decorative Past: The History of Jack-o'-Lanterns

We turn the investigative spotlight on one of the most iconic crafts of Halloween: the jack-o'-lantern. Who was Jack, anyway?

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According to an Irish legend, we can thank a man named Stingy Jack for the jack-o'-lantern.

 

Here's how the story goes: Stingy Jack invited the devil to share a round of drinks. The mortal man (remember, nicknamed "Stingy" Jack) didn't want to pay for his own drink, so he persuaded the devil to shapeshift into a coin. But once the devil transformed, Stingy Jack ditched the tab and kept the devil-turned-coin stuck in his vulnerable state. Jack only agreed to free the Devil under one condition: that he wouldn't seek revenge for one year and would never claim his soul upon his death.

 

This wasn't the end of Jack's mischief. Some time later, Jack convinced the devil to climb up a tree and pick some fruit. When the devil agreed, Jack carved a cross into the trunk of the tree so that the demon couldn't climb back down. Jack agreed to free him once more, only under the condition that the devil would not bother him for another 10 years and, again, never claim his soul.

Make the Carved Pumpkin

Time passed. When Jack died, neither God nor the devil would take his wayward soul. Lost in this purgatory state, Stingy Jack was cast off into the darkness of night, doomed to forever wander between the afterlife and the living world with a single burning coal -- placed in a carved turnip -- to light his path. From then on, countryfolk dubbed him "Jack of the Lantern" and then, "Jack-o'-Lantern."

 

He was a terrifying boogeyman for the Irish -- they carved jack-o'-lanterns to ward off evil spirits, including the vengeful soul of Stingy Jack.

 

In fact, the original jack-o'-lanterns weren't pumpkins at all. They were made out of the turnips and potatoes that were native to Ireland. It was only when the Irish immigrated to America, bringing their traditions with them, that they started carving pumpkins. Isn't that a scream?

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Feeling inspired? Take a stab at one of our pumpkin carving projects!

Make the Centerpiece of Mini Jack-o'-Lanterns

Have you carved a pumpkin yet this season? Share your favorite Halloween craft with us!

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