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Country Lifestyle

Quick History of the Jack-O’-Lantern

October 27, 2017

The annual tradition known as Halloween got its start from an age-old Celtic festival called Samhain. Back then, people wore costumes to scare off ghosts. Sometime after the introduction of All Saints Day in the eighth century, the two celebrations intermingled to become All Hallows Eve and later Halloween. So, how does the simple jack-o’-lantern fit into our current celebrations? That all started in the swamps and bogs of Ireland.

Back in the early 1500s, the term jack-o’-lantern was used to describe mysterious lights that appeared over swamps and bogs. People believed the lights were created by Jack, a cantankerous, legendary character who had cheated the devil several times and gotten away with it. The old tales say that when he died, his sinful ways kept him out of heaven. But because he had angered the devil one too many times, he wasn’t welcome there either. The devil poked a hold in a gourd, plopped a lump of burning coal into it, and sent Jack off to find his own hell. That’s when he got the name Jack O’Lantern.

A century later, science proved that those lights were not apparitions but gas from decomposing plants that ignite when they come in contact with electricity or a heat source. However, the legend had already stuck and the term jack-o’-lantern was a part of every Irish family’s vocabulary.

New World, Old Ways

As Irish families immigrated to America, they brought their Halloween traditions with them. This included the jack-o’-lantern, which was simply a pumpkin stuffed with coal or candles. These weren’t decorations. Instead, they were used to scare others into thinking Jack was out roaming the countryside.

By the end of the 19th century, jack-o’-lanterns became a seasonal decoration, faces were carved into the pumpkins, and old Jack could take a much-needed rest from his annual hauntings.

Get Your Pumpkins at Coastal

You’ll find boxes of pumpkins for your last-minute Halloween décor or compost bin at your Northwest owned and operated Coastal Farm & Ranch. While you’re there, check out the latest additions to our seasonal decorations.

Coastal Extra

Apple bobbing was once a fun and lighthearted way to break the ice between young men and women. The girls in a village or town would carve their initials on an apple and place it into a tub of water. Men would bob for those apples. Legends say that matches were made when a man would bite into an apple and pull it from the water.