Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Pagan Roots of Halloween: Jack-o-lanterns

The use of jack-o-lanterns may have originated from an old Irish tale. It was said that an old drunkard named Jack somehow tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree. Jack then carved a cross on the tree trunk to prevent the Devil from coming down. He made the Devil promise him that he would never come for Jack's soul when he died. Reluctantly, the Devil agreed. When Jack did die, he was not permitted in heaven because of his sins but also not allowed in hell because of the Devil's promise. As he was wandering earth (since he had no other place to go), eating a turnip, the Devil threw a hot coal at him. Jack put the coal in the turnip as a lantern and has since then been wandering the earth, searching for a place to rest.

From this tale, the Irish probably developed the custom of carving out turnips or beets. The face they carved out would be a representation of a dammed soul or demons freed from the dead. It was said that if a spirit or demon saw a fiendish-looking face like its own, that it would get scared away, saving the household from any evil occurrences. They lanterns would be laced outside to burn all night. When the Irish immigrated to America, they couldn't find many turnips or beets for their "jack-o-lanterns," but they did find an abundance of pumpkins! Figuring these would work, they began using them instead of turnips - and the pumpkin has been a part of Halloween ever since.

Because of its history and meaning, I personally don't think carving a jack-o-lantern is the best way to decorate for fall (I mean, it was originally the face of a demon!). But I know carving out pumpkins can be so fun!!! So, instead of a jack-o-lantern, why not carve out a Bible verse, or have a Thanksgiving theme?

Here's an example of some pumpkins we (Aaron, Mariah, and I) "etched" last year. Since we didn't puncture all the way into the pumpkin, the lasted a lot longer than regular jack-o-lanterns do - and they were so pretty and festive!
(Mariah's is on the left, mine is in the middle, Aaron's on the right.)

Here is a great website with video editorials and free pumpkin patterns where we learned how to "etch" our pumpkins: The Pumpkin Lady. Many of the free patterns are of jack-o-lanterns, but she does have some other ones. We ended up making our own patterns, though (we just drew it on a piece of paper, then transferred it to the pumpkin).

(This is another example I found of fun, festive pumpkin carvings.)

John 3:19-20
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

Romans 12:9
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.


  1. Thats cool Chloe! I ♥ your pumpkin! It's lovely!!

  2. I also Love Pumpkin Carving.
    And the Website I go to for stencils is

    They have 1000's of pumpkin carving patterns, everything from Cartoons to Scary Monsters.

    There's also step by step easy to follow tutors, Stoney makes learning to carve a pumpkin so Simple.

    the Tips There are Priceless.

    Here's a Video Clip that shows the some Pumpkins carved from their Stencils


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