In honor of the pumpkins we carved this week for our Tea Party on the 24th (and for Halloween) here’s a little background on the origin of this tradition. 🙂
Pumpkin carving is thought to have been introduced to North America by Irish immigrants. In Celtic tradition turnips or potatoes (since pumpkins aren’t indigenous to Ireland) were carved to resemble faces and had an ember placed inside to ward off evil spirits roaming the world on All Hallow’s Eve. In North America the local pumpkins made perfect carved lanterns for the season and have become an iconic Halloween image!
The term “Jack o Lantern” comes from an Irish folk song about a character named “Stingy Jack” who invited the Devil to have a drink with him but was too cheap to pay for the drink. He convinced the Devil to transform into a coin they could use to pay for the booze and then decided to just keep the money, placing it next to a cross in his pocket which prevented the Devil from changing back. He went on to taunt the Devil (after allowing him to transform back) two more times, wagering for a longer life and for the Devil to not claim his soul upon death. When Jack finally died Heaven didn’t want the jerk and the Devil had promised not to take his soul, so instead made Jack roam the earth with only an ember to light his way in the dark (which was put inside a carved turnip).
Happy Almost Halloween!