The Myth Behind the Pumpkin Carving Tradition


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This time of the year if you travel across the United States you will see pumpkins everywhere. They have become part of our Halloween tradition. Pumpkins can be found from peoples doorsteps to their dinner tables, as decorations or food.

Despite all the people who use the pumpkins as part of their tradition, very few actually know the story behind the carving of the Jack o’lantern.

The carvings of pumpkins for Halloween has been done for centuries and no, it was not an American thing to begin with. The tradition started in Ireland.

According to the myth, a man called “Stingy Jack" invited the Devil to have a drink with him. Not wanting to pay for his drink, Stingy Jack persuaded the Devil to turn himself into a coin which Jack could use to pay for their drinks.

Jack wanted to keep the coin and put it in his pocket with a silver cross. Come to find out, this prevented the Devil from changing back to normal.

Having promised, not to bother Jack for a year and if Jack was to die within that Year the Devil would not claim his soul, Jack freed the Devil.

The following year Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree to pick a fruit. With the Devil was in the tree Jack carved a cross in the bark which prevented the Devil from getting down. This time he had to promise Jack not to bother him for another ten years.

Not long after, Jack died but according to the myth God would not let such a person into heaven. The Devil, still upset by the tricks Jack had played on him had to keep his word not to claim his soul, therefore he would not allow him into hell.

With only a burning coal to light his way, the Devil sent Jack off into the dark night. Ever since Jack has been roaming the Earth with his burning coal which he put into a carved out turnip.

The people of Ireland began to call this ghostly figure “Jack of the lantern, " then simply became Jack o’lantern.

Because there were no pumpkins in Ireland, Scotland and England they were carving scary faces into turnips, potatoes and beets. They put these in their windows and near doors in order to scare away Stingy Jack and other evil spirits.

Immigrants from these countries brought this tradition with them to the US. Here they found that pumpkins made perfect Jack o’lanterns.

There is lots of history behind Halloween and the stories are many.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Hege Crowton is establishing herself as an expert copywriter. She is known for doing in-depth research before writing her articles. Many of her articles are posted on and she also does a lot of writing for

Copyright 2005


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