Oh my gourd! History of the Jack-o-lantern on Halloween

The season for tricks + treats is upon us! Kids of all ages can’t wait for candy and costumes. Pumpkins, spider webs and ghosts adorn front porches everywhere; and haunted houses and scary movies are the preferred form of entertainment for many this month. But why exactly do we have these traditions?

Carving pumpkins has been around since before the 19th century, though it didn’t popularize as a Halloween staple until the late 1800s. Where did it come from? Ghouls + goblins beware—you might be in for a fright after hearing the history of the Jack-o-lantern!

The tradition stems from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack—a blacksmith with a love of money. It’s said that Stingy Jack invited the devil out for drinks with him one night (totally normal right?), but Jack—being stingy—didn’t want to pay for the tab. He convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin so he could settle the bill. Instead of using the devil-coin to pay for the tab, however, he left without paying and kept the coin in his pocket with a silver cross so the devil couldn’t change back. Jack eventually set the devil free, but made him promise not to seek revenge or claim his soul when he died.

Time passed and Jack set out to trick the devil once again. He convinced him to climb a tree to pick fruit, but Jack carved a cross in the trunk before the devil could climb down. Again, Jack freed him, and again made him promise not to seek revenge or claim his soul.

Stingy Jack eventually died, but God wouldn’t allow him into heaven; and the devil kept his promise and wouldn’t allow him into hell. The devil did, however, give Jack a single burning coal to light his way as he searched for “his own hell.” Jack put the coal into a hollowed and carved turnip and is said to have been roaming the earth ever since.

When the Irish immigrated to America, they brought with them the tradition of the carved turnip, which then shifted to carved-out pumpkins. And so the tradition of the Jack-o-lantern on Halloween was born.

Want to add some spook to your front porch this year with a Jack-o-lantern? Stop by GSCO. We’ve got the perfect pumpkins to spice up your Halloween décor!