Monday, October 31, 2011


Everybody has seen jack-o-lanterns, and a lot of people have even carved them personally, but do you know how jack-o-lanterns got started?  Well, it's a very interesting story, and I'm about to tell it to you.

A long time ago in Ireland, there was a a man called Stingy Jack, and one day he asked the Devil to have a drink with him.  So they went to a pub and had a drink, but then Jack didn't want to pay because he was stingy, just like his name said.  So he talked the Devil into turning himself into a coin, and that way Jack could use the coin to pay the bill.  After that, the Devil would change back to his usual self, and Jack wouldn't be out any money.

So the Devil agreed to do this, and he changed into a coin.  But Jack decided to keep the coin instead of paying the bill, and he stuck the coin into his pocket, right next to a cross.  And in this way, the devil was trapped, and he couldn't change back into the Devil.  But finally Jack freed the Devil from the coin, except that first he made the Devil promise to leave him alone for a year.  Also Jack got a promise that the Devil wouldn't take his soul, in case Jack died.

Scary cat witch
Then later, Jack tricked the silly Devil again and made him climb a tree to get a piece of fruit.  As soon as the Devil got up in the tree, Jack carved a cross on the tree, and this made it so that the Devil couldn't come down from the tree until he promised not to bother Jack for 10 years.  But Jack only lived a little while longer, and when he died, he was too naughty to get into heaven.  And he couldn't go to hell either because the Devil had promised not to take his soul.

Death Star pumpkin
So Jack asked the Devil where he should go and what he should do.  And the Devil said that Jack must wander the earth forever in the dark of night.  Then he gave him a coal from the eternal fires of hell, and Jack carved out a turnip to carry his coal in.  And after that, Jack roamed around, always looking for a place to rest, and people called him "Jack of the Lantern," or "Jack o' Lantern" for short.

Traditional Irish turnip lantern
from early 20th century
Another meaning for jack-o-lantern was a night watchman, because watchmen carried lanterns.  This term began to be used in 1837.  And pretty soon, the Irish started carving faces in turnips or other vegetables such as rutabagas, potatoes, and beets.  Then they put a candle in the vegetable and put it in their window or by their door to scare away evil spirits such as Stingy Jack.  Scottish people did this, too, and when immigrants came to America, they brought the tradition with them.

But in America, there were pumpkins, which the native Americans had been growing for 5,000 years or so.  Europeans didn't know about pumpkins at the time when Columbus first came here, but when they came here to settle, they found out that pumpkins made great jack-o-lanterns, as well as being yummy to eat.  At first, carved pumpkins were just part of the harvest season, but later they got to be associated with Halloween.

Of course, you are probably wondering what the largest jack-o-lantern ever carved was.  Well, it was made on October 31, 2005 from a pumpkin that weighed 1,469 pounds.  The man who carved it was Scott Cully, of Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania.

And the record for the most jack-o-lanterns ever carved and lit in one place was set on October 21, 2006, on Boston Common, where there were 30,128 of them.

I think more pumpkins
should have dogs carved on them!

People used to just carve faces on pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns, but nowadays, you can carve almost anything.  You can even go on the internet and get patterns and instructions for how to make your jack-o-lantern.  We never make jack-o-lanterns here at our house because Mom is too lazy.  I don't care too much about that, but sometimes I wish that she would make a really big pumpkin pie for us dogs.  I think that would be a very nice thing for her to do!


  1. Interesting blog today, Piper. We like all the pumpkin carvings. We also agree that mom should bake you and our mom should bake for us, a BIG pumpkin pie!

  2. Very interesting and I enjoyed all the pics of the carved pumpkins too! I, personaly, haven't carved a pumpkin since my daughter left home. Like your mom, I'm just to lazy to do it. One year my daughter & I didn't carve pumpkins - we just made colorful faces on the pumpkins. We only did that once because my daughter thought it was boring compared to carving pumpkins. Anyway, I did enjoy today's blog, and I think it would be super nice of your mom to make a big pumpkin pie for you and the other dogs, but something tells me that probably won't happen. Have a nice Halloween, and I hope all the kids don't scare you and all the others in the household; especially the new kittens.
    Love, AP

  3. We are busy hiding in our house right now with the outside lights off, and nobody has come to the door so far. But people keep walking right across our yard, on our new grass, which does not make Mom happy. But mostly we are trying to pretend it is not Halloween, except that I told Mom that everyone agrees she should bake us a pumpkin pie. She said she would "take it under advisement," whatever that means!
    Love, Piper