The tradition of the “Jack-O-Lantern stems from England, Ireland and Scotland where ghostly flickering lights, a natural phenomenon known as “ignis fatuus” or “fool’s fire” might be seen in the distance over bogs, swamps or marshes and would disappear upon approach. It was thought to be trying to lure nighttime travelers off the safe roads. In Ireland, the story goes that an unsavory character named Stingy Jack kept tricking the devil into not claiming his soul upon death. When he got to heaven he found that God didn’t want him because of his misdeeds, so he was condemned to roam the earth with nothing but a burning coal to light his way. He carved a turnip into a lantern and became known as “Jack O’ the Lantern”. People were so afraid that he was coming to get them that they would carve their own pumpkins to scare him off.
Across Britain and the continent, people started making their own spooky lights from various indigenous hard vegetables that were carved out and lit with candles from within. Immigrants to America brought the tradition with them and began using locally grown pumpkins which were larger and easier to carve.
If you’re looking to shake things up this Halloween, why not bring back a little of the old country?