The Evolution of Jack O’Lanterns

From just a legend to an annual tradition, how Jack O’Lanterns developed over time


Leo Lee, Kenneth Lee, Beatty Middle School

A modern day Jack O’Lantern carved from pumpkin.

One of the most iconic symbols of Halloween, Jack O’Lanterns, have evolved significantly over the years. Since the 19th century, carving pumpkins during the Halloween season has become a tradition in most parts of the world, including the United States, Ireland, parts of Southern Asia, Germany. However, do you know the history behind these mysterious things? 

Originating from Ireland and Scotland, it all started from the legend of Stingy Jack. According to the legend, Stingy Jack was a man who tricked The Devil into turning into a coin to pay for a drink, and then preventing him from changing back to his normal form. Because of his doings, neither God or The Devil let him into heaven or hell. Jack then roamed the Earth to this day, being referred to as “Jack of the Lantern” until people started calling him as “Jack O’ Lantern.” People have since then started carving scary faces on pumpkins to scare away evil spirits. 

At first, people from Ireland and Scotland would carve Jack O’Lanterns onto potatoes and large beets, but as people started to migrate to America, they found pumpkins to be the perfect use. Now, people from all over the world carve pumpkins not only to scare away evil spirits, but to have fun and spend time with their loved ones. People have also started to carve different faces, animals, or symbols.

As Halloween is just around the corner, many people are preparing to start carving pumpkins again. Do you have plans on carving Jack O’Lanterns this Halloween?