Halloween is coming and most people will be carving their pumpkins, putting candles inside and setting them outside on their porches. Did you ever wonder how this tradition got started?
Ancient people in Britain, Ireland and Scotland made candlelit lanterns out of different fruits and vegetables like turnips, apples, beets, potatoes and cucumbers. They carved scary faces in these fruits and vegetables and placed the candles inside, hoping the creepy lighted faces would frighten off evil spirits, especially on the night known as Samhain (now called Halloween) when the barrier between the dead and the living opened and spirits walked the Earth. American colonists realized that pumpkins made the best carved lanterns.
An old Irish legend says that the jack-o’-lantern was named after a real man called Stingy Jack who tricked the devil, forcing him to keep Jack out of hell. But God didn’t think he was good enough to get into heaven either. The devil condemned Jack to wander the Earth at night, his only light a turnip lantern lit with the fire from hell. The Irish named the eerie ghost Jack-o’-Lantern.
Another fun fact about pumpkins: In science, a pumpkin is classified as a fruit not a vegetable.
Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author
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