Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween 2015: History of Jack-O-Lanterns! #halloween

Did you know the first jack-o-lanterns weren’t make out of pumpkins?  When I told my 9 year-old son, Joe, he was surprised.  Nope, they were turnips.

The Irish used to make jack-o-lanterns out of turnips and put them out on All Hallow’s Eve to scare away the evil spirits and specifically, Stingy Jack.  They didn’t just hallow out turnips either. They also made jack-o-lanterns out of: rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. In the 1800’s Irish immigrants came to America and discovered the pumpkin.  Since then, the squash has been a favorite to make jack-o-lanterns. 

So is Stingy Jack the guy that the jack-o-lantern is supposed to keep at bay?

Stingy Jack is an old Irish legend.  He was a miserable man who drank too much and loved playing tricks on anyone who passed his way – including his mom and even the Devil.

He tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree then he placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Since the Devil couldn’t touch the crosses, he was stuck in the tree.  Stingy Jack struck a deal with the Devil.  The Devil wouldn’t take his soul when Jack died.  Then Jack removed the crosses the Devil got out of the tree.

When Jack finally died he met St. Peter at the gates of Heaven.  St. Peter told Jack he lived a miserable life on Earth and was very cruel.  Jack couldn’t get into Heaven.  So he went to Hell and asked the Devil if he could come in.  The Devil said no.

Can you imagine?  You can’t get into Heaven – or Hell!

Jack fussed with the Devil who took pity on him and gave him an ember from Hell to help Jack light his way as he traveled through the Netherworld which had no light. Jack stuck his ember in his turnip and even to this day, roams the Earth since he doesn’t have a resting place using a “Jack-O-Lantern.”

Have a Great Halloween! Question for you: What are you going to be for Halloween?

Joe the Minion and Andrew the Scream Guy for Halloween 2015. We made our trunk into a Graveyard. 


  1. This is probably a tale told by the Scots-Irish also when they emigrated from County Antrim to the colonies in the 1700's.

  2. I've heard this tale before. My question was always: why was Jack, a dead man, carrying a turnip with him?

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Cheryl. I don't know much, just what I research, but it's an interesting story.

    Barbara, that's a good question! Maybe dead people only eat turnips? :)