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Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns ( the name, jack-o’-lantern, comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack ( is a popular Halloween tradition that originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland. Back then, however, jack-o’-lanterns were made out of turnips or potatoes; it wasn’t until Irish immigrants arrived in America along their lantern-making practices. Once they came across pumpkins, they realized that these vibrant fruits also made excellent lanterns. They often carved scary faces and placed the lanterns near doors in order to frighten away evil spirits. This practice likely stemmed from the superstitions and strict religious practices of yesteryear.

According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack held him that way until devil agreed not to take his soul.

Shortly after his meeting with the devil, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not accept Jack into Heaven and sent him down to visit the devil in Hell. But the devil kept his promise. He wouldn’t let Jack into Hell, either. The devil sent Jack into the dark night to roam the world for eternity, with only a coal to light his way. Jack lit the coal, put it in a hollowed-out turnip, and has been drifting through the world, scaring children ever since. Believers of this myth began to carve their own lanterns out of turnips, beets, potatoes, and eventually pumpkins in hopes of warding away any ghostly spirits.


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