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The Jack-o’-lantern

on October 11, 2013

A Jack-o’-lantern is not just a carved pumpkin but can also be a turnip or beet. They are chiefly associated with Halloween, and named after the strange lights that flicker over peat bogs, named will-o’-the-wisp or jack-o’-lanterns. Typically the the top is cut off and the inside hollowed out. Then the image, usually a scary face of some kind is carved out and the lid replaced. In America the pumpkin is used almost exclusively while in Britain turnips and beets are used.

Jack-o’-lanterns were carved in the 19th in parts of Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland and were carved in grotesque faces to represent spirits and goblins. In the 20th century this practice spread to other parts of England. The carved pumpkin made its first recorded Halloween appearance in the United States in 1866. Why is it called a Jack-o’-lantern. It is based on numerous stories in which a character named Jack outwitted the devil and imprisoned him in some way. In return for his release the devil promised not to take Jack’s soul, so when Jack died he did not go to hell but was not good enough for heaven either. Jack had no place to go, the devil gave him a burning ember that would never go out, so Jack carved out a turnip and put the ember in it. Now he wanders endlessly seeking rest and was called Jack of the Lantern.

Today pumpkins are carved into all sorts of wondrous patterns and their are many competitions.


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