Jack-o’-lanterns might be the biggest aspect of thetradition, and there are just a few days left for you to get yours carved. But, no, this is not a pumpkin-carving tutorial — go to some sissy website for that. No, here we’re presenting a simple gallery of some serious bad-assery when it comes to Jack-o’lantern designs. As a bonus, maybe you’ll learn something about the old tradition.
It is not known from where the practice of carving Jack-o’lanterns originates, but it’s commonly accepted that Ireland may be the start. Carving gourds, the family that pumpkins belong to, is something that’s gone on throughout the world, and in fact sometimes for the practical use of making usable lanterns. Several historians claim that Jack-o’lanterns were carved in the 19yj century with horrific faces that resembled spirits, goblins, or other such monsters. Others claim that the Jack-o’-lanterns were carved to light the way of trick r’ treaters, and yet others say that they represent Christian souls in purgatory. I personally like the idea that they are used to ward off evil spirits.
But, the best account of the Jack-o’lantern might just be in The Legend of Stingy Jack.
The Legend of Stingy Jack
People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.
A note about some of the Jack-o’-lanterns in our gallery:
The Frankenstein and Dracula pumpkins were carved by Passion for Pumpkins, led by John Reckner. His team consists of artists who use ballpoint pens, oil-based markers, and paring knives to create spectacular pumpkin art. Instead of cutting through the pumpkin, the crew shaves it with a paring knife, which allows them to remove some of the skin. Then, the bottom is cut out and the inside is cleaned, leaving the skin about a quarter of an inch thick. This allows the light bulb to illuminate the image on the outside.
Rock Hard \m/