According to the all knowing and wise Wikipedia, insert sarcasm, the tradition for carving pumpkins came from Ireland in the early 19th century. It was also noted that pumpkins weren’t the only things carved; “A jack-o’-lantern is a carved pumpkin, turnip or beet…” according to the site. I must say I can’t imagine a carved turnip or beet with a candle in it. And I must admit the beet and turnip jack-o’-lanterns looks really cool! And where do they find this giant root veggies anyways?
Okay so back to the history of the Jack-O’-Lantern in my own non-concise way :-):
Many sources refer to the Irish lore of Stingy Jack as the origins of the Jack-O’-Lantern. The story is told as such, Stingy Jack went drinking with the devil and wouldn’t pay his tab and convinced the devil to turn into a coin so they could pay for their drinks. Well, true to his name Stingy Jack kept the money and put it into his pocket with a silver cross which kept the Devil from turning back into his true form. And I’m just taking a wild leap here, not really, but I’m pretty sure this pissed the Devil off. He is the devil and this story makes him sound like a fool, but I digress. The only way Stingy Jack would let the Devil go was by making him promise he wouldn’t harass Jack for at least a year and if he should pass during that time then the Devil couldn’t have his soul. Well, he did have the Devil by the balls so the Devil begrudgingly agreed to this deal.
A year goes by and you’d think the Devil would just leave Stingy Jack alone but no he comes back and gets tricked again. I kind of refuse to believe that the Devil is this moronic but this is how the legend goes. Who knows how Jack convinced the Devil to climb up a tree to pick a piece of fruit for him but he did and while the Devil was climbing Stingy Jack carved a cross into the trunk. Clearly we see that a cross in any form is the Devil’s Kryptonite and one would think he’d guard against it but he doesn’t and is one again at the mercy of Stingy Jack. So clever Jack brokered and even better deal than the last time, and why wouldn’t he? I’m pretty sure he couldn’t believe that he tricked the Devil again. This time Jack made the stipulation that the Devil wasn’t to bother him for 10 years this time with the same rules upon his death during that time period. Stingy Jack did indeed die within this time period, but he wasn’t counting on God to not let him into heaven and so Stingy Jack was at the mercy of the Devil, the irony. The Devil kept his word but wanted to make Jack suffer so he placed him in the in-between world in darkness with only coal for light. So Jack was forced to roam with only coal to burn and he carved out a turnip and put the coal in there to use it as a lantern. And that’s where we get the abbreviated version of “Jack of the Lantern.”
The Irish and Scottish would use turnips and potatoes and carve scary faces into these roots to ward off evil spirits, the undead and Stingy Jack of course. The English would use beets for the same reasons. And when these groups of people came to settle in the United States, they brought their traditions with them.
I leave you with the well crafted R2D2 Pumpkin