Jack-o’-Lanterns light the night


Every October, jack-o’-lanterns line the porches and doorsteps of houses around the world. Their comical, cheerful and scary faces light up the night to celebrate the Halloween season.

For many generations, some of people’s most cherished memories were picking out a pumpkin and spending all afternoon carving it for Halloween, but how far do jack-o’-lanterns go back, and how have they changed throughout time?

Jack-o’-Lanterns were named after will-o’-wisps, which were strange lights or fire seen by travelers over bogs, swamps or marshes. The will-o’-wisps’ first recorded mention dates back all the way to 1563.

Although the actual origin of jack-o-lanterns is uncertain, carving vegetables has been around for 10,000 years with gourds being one of the earliest plant species used. Most accredit the origin of jack-o’-lanterns as an Irish custom.

According to Wikipedia, Jack-o’-lanterns were believed to be carved in Ireland with turnips and beets for Samhain, the days of October 31 to November 1. They were used to light the way for guisers, people who would dress up as spirits of the dead, on All Hallow’s Eve. There’s another belief that carving jack-o’-lanterns was for All Saint’s Day on November 1 to symbolize Christian souls in purgatory.

Either way, there is not enough research to prove either of these origins.

Recently, carving more intricate and complex designs on pumpkins has become popular with thousands of stencils available now to choose from. Because of these, a jack-o’-lantern can be more unique than just triangle eyes and a crooked grin.

To show off these new crafty jack-o’-lanterns, many places around the world open their grounds to be arranged with jack-o’-lanterns of all different shapes, sizes and designs. The Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island is one place that has a Jack-o’-Lantern Spectacular. It attracts over 100,000 people each year; 5,000 jack-o’-lanterns illuminate the zoo, and 125 of them are artistically carved to contribute to the Spectacular’s theme that year.

There are even world records involving jack-o’-lanterns. In 2005, the world’s largest jack-o’-lantern was carved by Scott Cully in Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania. The pumpkin weighed 1,810 pounds.

Since October 21, 2006, the Life is Good Company and Camp Sunshine set the world record of the most jack-o’-lanterns lit at the same time- 30,128 jack-o’-lanterns were lit on Boston Commons.
Although your jack-o’-lantern this Halloween may not be the most imaginative or set a world record, carving them is still an enjoyable Halloween tradition and one that we’ll pass down for generations to come.