How Pumpkin Carving Came to Be an American Tradition

by on March 8th, 2015
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Jack O’ Lanterns are a staple in the American celebration of Halloween. Have you ever wondered where the tradition of carving pumpkins originated? The story of Stingy Jack is an Irish Folklore story and explains how pumpkin carving came to be!

Stingy Jack, one night, invited the Devil to join him for a drink. Stingy Jack had decided that he wasn’t paying for his drink. The clever talker that Stingy Jack was he somehow convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin, so that he could pay for the drinks with it. However, he decided that he wanted to keep the coin instead so he put it in his pocket next to a cross. The cross prevented the devil from turning back. Eventually he frees the Devil with the agreement that the devil would not contact him for at least a year and that when he died the Devil could not claim his soul.

The next year when the Devil and Stingy Jack met again. Stingy Jack somehow talked the devil into climbing a tree to pick some fruit. Jack secretly carved a cross into the trees trunk. Jack only let the devil down after the devil promised to leave him alone for another ten years.

Jack would only live a few more years however. And as the story goes God would not let a character as bad as Stingy Jake into heaven and he was not allowed into hell either.

He was left to wonder alone in the dark with only a burning coal to light the way. Jack carved a turnip to put the burning coal into, he has wondered the burning coal ever since.

Irish people referred to Stingy Jack then as Jack of the Lantern. Eventually it was shortened to Jack o’ Lantern.

The people of Ireland and Scotland would carve their own version of the lanterns using potatoes and turnips, which they would place around their homes to scare off the devil and Stingy Jack. In England they would carve out large beets.

The tradition was brought into the United States by these immigrants. They started using a fruit that is more native to America to carve out the Jack o’ Lanterns. And that is how pumpkin carving has made it’s way into the holiday tradition that almost every American practices every Halloween.

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