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While the origins of the jack-o-lantern first appear in the early 1700s in England and/or Ireland, the construction remains constant- hollow out any gourd and carve out a ghoulish face. We’ve come a long way – carving kits, templates, and the most elaborate designs can now be found illuminating from doorsteps during Halloween. 

When it comes to holiday traditions, we often don’t give them a second thought. They are just something we have done for centuries and will probably continue to carry on for many more. When it comes to the carving of pumpkins and the jack-o-lantern, there are few theories as to its origin. 

  • The name comes from a reported phenomenon of strange lights flickering over peat bogs, called will-o’-the-wisps or jack-o’-lanterns. The term uses wisp (a bundle of sticks or paper as a torch). 
  • Irish folklore claims the term jack-o-lantern derived from the legend of Stingy Jack. A story of a man named Jack and his dealings with the devil. 
  • The first known use or creation of the jack-o-lantern in the United States was reportedly in the early 1800s as Irish immigrants arrived bringing the tradition with them. 
  • Lanterns (made of turnips or other gourds) in early times- were intended to ward off evil spirits. 
  • With the abundance of gourds around the eve of All Saints Day on Nov. 1, the gourds were placed in window sills to frighten people and to ward off harmful spirits.