Ah, pumpkin carving. Anyone who celebrates Halloween has fond memories of picking out a pumpkin from a pumpkin patch, or perhaps a grocery store, bringing it home to cut open and dig the seeds out of, carving a face or other design on it and then adding a candle or lightbulb to illuminate the design and create a spooky decoration. 

Yet, it’s a Halloween tradition that few know the true history of, so I’m here to tell you all about it! 

According to History.com, pumpkin carving originated in Ireland, where faces were originally carved into large potatoes or turnips. This practice comes from the Irish myth of a man named “Stingy Jack” who, according to legend, invited the devil to have a drink with him. Being stingy, Jack did not want to pay for the drink, and convinced the devil to turn into a coin which he could use to pay. The devil agreed, but Jack went back on his promise and put the devil in his pocket with a silver cross, preventing the devil from reverting to his original form. He eventually made a deal with the devil to free him, so long as the evil being agreed to not bother him for one more year and to not take his soul when he eventually dies.

When the devil returned a year later, Jack tricked him into climbing a tree to pick fruit, and then he carved a cross into the tree so that the devil could not climb down. He then made a second deal with the devil; he would let him free so long as he agreed to not bother him for another decade.

During these ten years, Jack died, and since he was a sinner, he was not granted entry into heaven. The devil, keeping his promise, would not take his soul and grant him entry into hell. He sent Jack’s ghost away with a burning coal to light his way in the darkness, which Jack placed into a carved-out turnip. 

Ever since, people have claimed to see Jack’s ghostly figure wandering through the night, trapped between heaven and hell. He was given the name “Jack of the Lantern,” or as we more commonly say, “Jack-O’-Lantern.” 

In Ireland, Scotland and England, people began carving scary faces into plants (the Irish and Scottish favoring turnips and potatoes and the English favoring beets) and placing them in windows or outside their homes in order to scare away Jack and other evil spirits. It was not until Irish immigrants brought their tradition to North America, where pumpkins are a native species, that we began using pumpkins to make jack-o’-lanterns. 

In the spirit of Halloween, my roommates and I decided to create our own jack-o’-lantern. After a long night of collaboration, we finally decided on a sleek, minimalist design that, in our humble opinions, best represents the spirit of Halloween. This terrifying figure is sure to scare away any evil spirits seeking to lurk in our apartment.

 

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