The Story Behind Jack O’Lanterns

I recently carved my very first Jack O’Lantern and it got me thinking about where the idea came from! So I did some research and decided to write this post sharing my new found knowledge… it is also perfect for blogtober!

It turns out that Jack O’Lanterns were originally carved in Turnips and they originated in Ireland as a result of an old myth…

A man called ‘Stingy Jack’ invited the Devil to go for a drink with him. When it came to paying for their drinks, Stingy Jack encouraged the Devil to turn himself into a gold coin so that he could use it to pay for the drinks; but instead he placed the coin in his pants pocket next to a silver cross, meaning the Devil was unable to change back into his true self. After some time, Jack set the Devil free but made him promise not to bother Jack for at least 1 year and that if Jack should die, the Devil would not claim his soul.
A year passed and Jack and the Devil met once more… Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree to pick some fruit for him, but when the Devil reached the top, Jack carved a cross into the tree stump, preventing the Devil from coming down! He made the Devil promise not to bother him for the next ten 
years; when the Devil agreed, Jack let him go. After some time, Jack passed away… God would not accept Jack into heaven due to his deceptive behaviours and the Devil stayed true to his promise and refused to claim Jacks soul and welcome him to Hell. The Devil sent Jack away into the night, with nothing but a burning coal to light the way. Jack placed the coal inside a carved out turnip and has been left roaming the Earth ever since. The Irish referred to this ghostly figure as ‘Jack of the Lantern’ which was eventually shortened to ‘Jack O’Lantern’. 

People in Ireland and Scotland began carving their own turnips with scary faces, filling them with candles or burning wood and placing them outside of their doors to ward off Stingy Jack and other lost souls. People in England would also carve turnips, as well as beetroots and potatoes!

Immigrants from these countries took the tradition to various different countries across the world when the tradition reached America, people discovered that pumpkins were much better for carving… and so a new form of Jack O’Lantern was born.

As Autumn is the best season for the harvest of many crops (including pumpkins), people began carving their Jack O’Lanterns as a Halloween tradition!



I love hearing old Myths and Legends, so I found this tale to be very interesting to read. It has made me love the idea of carving pumpkins even more! I like how the tradition was not created as a way to scare people, but rather as a way of protecting people from the evil spirits that are believed to be roaming the Earth. 

I hope you have enjoyed this short post about Jack O’Lanterns! I definitely enjoyed reading up about this! 

If you know of any other Halloween myths and legends, please share them with us in the comments below, I would absolutely love to read them!

History.Com – Jack of the Lanterns


2 thoughts on “The Story Behind Jack O’Lanterns

  1. I don’t know any Halloween stories, but the Stingy Jack story is so interesting! I just have memories of carving pumpkins (badly) when I was young… but mostly remember the small of pumpkin LOL.

    1. I can’t believe I made it to the age of 22 without carving a pumpkin! 😂 definitely going to start doing this every year 🎃 I will have to google some Halloween stories! xx

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