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The History of Jack O' Lanterns

The History of Jack O' Lanterns


@jointhecovn 🎃 about to try carving a turnip to be vintage #daystilhalloween #halloween #jackolantern #jackolanterns #pumpkin #pumpkinseason #history #sleepyhollow #todayilearned #stingyjack #irish #celtic #samhain ♬ original sound - Covn


Today we will be learning about the history of the Halloween staple: Jack O' Lanterns.

The tale of Jack O’ Lanterns begins as early as the origin of Halloween itself with the Celtic festival of Samhain, (check out our 'Who Celebrates Halloween?' Blog Post for more info) where the veil between the living and spiritual world was at its thinnest. Carved turnips and potatoes (plentiful post harvest) were carved into. Designs on the vegetables were supposed to resemble severed heads of your enemies in order to ward off sprits and restless souls. 

The name of Jack in Jack O’ Lantern comes from the specific Irish folktale Stingy Jack. Many versions of this story exist - it was said Jack was a blacksmith who loved drink and trouble. Jack ended up tricking the devil twice barring himself from both heaven and hell. The devil took pity on Jack and gave him a lantern as he wandered between both places for eternity, thus the name Jack of the Lantern (or Jack O' Lantern). 

The Jack O’ Lantern's popularity is highest in America. The tradition of carving was brought over to the US by Irish immigrants. This tradition being combined with better carving objects only found in the new world (pumpkins) meant that their popularity and commonplace increased.

What really pushed the Jack O' Lantern's popularity further was the famous story of Washington Irving: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow first published in 1820. In the legend a Headless Horseman terrorizes main character Ichabod Crane by chucking an uncarved pumpkin at him. This story solidified pumpkins (and by association Jack O' Lanterns) into the web of Halloween forever. 

So there is how and why the Jack O' Lantern has become a permanent staple of the spooky season. Be sure to check out our other blog posts for information on Samhain, which pumpkins can be eaten, and Sleepy Hollow. 

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