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The History Behind Jack-O-Lantern Carvings

Every year around Halloween, we all look forward to carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. But do you know where this custom originated? The intriguing history of jack-o-lanterns dates back many centuries.

The Origin of Jack-O-Lanterns

The story of jack-o-lanterns started somewhere in Ireland during the centuries-old Samhain festival. It marked the conclusion of the harvest season and the start of the winter season. They believed that the barrier between the living and the dead was fragile during this period, allowing deceased souls to return to earth.

To fend off evil spirits, people used to cut turnips and stick candles inside. “jack-o-lanterns.” are what people termed these carved turnips. The name originates from the Irish folktale of Stingy Jack, a man destined to wander the earth with only a carved-out turnip to light his way after tricking the devil.

This custom was carried over to America by Irish immigrants in the 1800s. But they soon realized that carving pumpkins was far simpler than turnips. Then they started carving jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins, and the custom grew in popularity.

The Evolution of Jack-O-Lanterns

Jack-o-lanterns have developed from straightforward pumpkin carvings to elaborate pieces of art over the years. More intricate designs are now being made by people using stencils, and some have even started using power tools to carve their creations.

In recent years, carving pumpkins has developed into a sport with international competitions. The biggest pumpkin carving competition is held in Central Park in New York City, where participants go head-on for a $25,000 prize.

Tips for Carving Your Own Jack-O-Lantern

We’ve seen how Jack O Lanterns evolved to what we have today, we know the history too, but now, let’s look at how we can make you as good as Michelangelo on your next Halloween. 

  1. Choose a ripe pumpkin that is devoid of bumps or blemishes.
  2. To make a ledge for the lid, cut the pumpkin’s top at an angle rather than straight down.
  3. With a spoon or scraper, remove the seeds and pulp. Preserve the seeds for later roasting!
  4. Use a sharpie to sketch a design freehand or with a stencil.
  5. Use a serrated knife to cut out the design, working from the center outward.
  6. Replace the lid on your jack-o-lantern after inserting a candle or battery-operated light within.

These tips will help you carve a jack-o-lantern that will be the talk of the town.


See Beautiful Jack-O-Lanterns in LA at Nights of the Jack

The history of jack-o-lanterns dates back a very long time. This Halloween custom has advanced significantly from simple turnips to ornate pumpkin carvings. Consider the old Irish folktale of Stingy Jack and the centuries-old custom that it was inspired by when you carve your pumpkin this year.

Jack-o-lanterns are much more than just Halloween decorations. They pay homage to Halloween’s enduring spirit as well as the ages-old Irish customs. Have fun carving! Looking to instead see professionally carved pumpkins right here in the LA area? Visit Nights of the Jack during our Fall season.

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