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The Story of the Jack – O – Lantern

(Excerpts from Wikipedia)

A jack-o’-lantern is a carved pumpkinturnip or beet, associated chiefly with the holiday of Halloween, and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called will-o’-the-wisp or jack-o’-lantern. In a jack-o’-lantern, the top is cut off, and the inside flesh then scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved out, and the lid replaced. It is typically seen during Halloween. In origin, in the British Isles, turnips and beets were used whereas, in North America, pumpkins are used almost exclusively.


 A traditional Irish Jack-o’-Lantern in the Museum of Country LifeIreland

 Modern carving of a Cornish Jack-o’-Lantern made from a turnip.

In literature and popular culture, the application of the term to a carved pumpkins in American English is first attested in 1834. The carved pumpkin lantern association with Halloween is recorded in 1866 in the U.S. In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween Folklore.
A commercial “R.I.P.” pattern

The story of the Jack-O’-lantern comes in many variants and is similar to the story of Will-o’-the-wisp, retold in different forms across Ireland andScotland. An old Irish folk tale tells of Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who was getting chased by some villagers from whom he had stolen, when he met the Devil, who claimed it was time for him to die. However, the thief stalled his death by tempting the Devil with a chance to bedevil the church-going villagers chasing him. Jack told the Devil to turn into a coin with which he would pay for the stolen goods (the Devil could take on any shape he wanted); later, when the coin/Devil disappeared, the Christian villagers would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil agreed to this plan. He turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack’s wallet, only to find himself next to a cross Jack had also picked up in the village. Jack closed the wallet tight, and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped.

Jack only lets the Devil go when he agrees never to take his soul. After a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, the Devil had promised not to take his soul, and so Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would see where to go, as he had no light, and the Devil mockingly tossed him an ember that would never burn out from the flames of hell. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which were his favorite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as “Jack of the Lantern”, or Jack-o’-lantern.

 Jack-o’-Lantern World Records

 According to the Guinness Book of World Records, a record was set on October 21, 2006 when 30,128 jack-o’-lanterns were simultaneously lit onBoston Commons  Highwood, Illinois tried to set the record on October 31, 2011 with an unofficial count of 30,919, but did not follow the Guinness regulations so the record did not count. Guinness still holds Boston as the world record holder.


The World’s Largest Jack-o’-lantern


The world’s largest jack-o’-lantern was carved from the then-world’s-largest pumpkin on October 31, 2005 in Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania, United States by Scott Cully. The pumpkin was grown by Larry Checkon and weighed 1,469 lb (666.33 kg) on October 1, 2005 at the Pennsylvania Giant Pumpkin Growers Association Weigh-off.

 Be sure to “like” Winterberry Gardens on Facebook –  for the entire month of October, we are celebrating #31DaysOfPumpkins! We will be featuring amazing jack-o’-lantern designs every day. If you have a unique carving – post it on our wall!