People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him but 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. Jack decided to keep the money instead of paying for the drinks so he put it into his pocket next to a silver cross to keep the Devil from changing back. Jack eventually freed the Devil if he agreed not bother Jack for one year. The next year, Jack 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 he would leave him alone for ten more years. Jack died shortly after this. God would not allow Jack into heaven. The Devil wouldn’t allow Jack into hell because of the tricks he played so 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. He has been called “Jack of the Lantern,” and “Jack O’Lantern” ever since.
The original jack-o’-lanterns were carved from turnips, potatoes or beets. People began making their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips, beets or potatoes and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits.
The jack o’lantern tradition was brought to America by immigrants from Scotland, Ireland and England. This is where they discovered that pumpkins made excellent jack-o-lanterns.