The Real History behind Halloween Pumpkins

Elmira | 09 - 22 - 2020
The Real History behind Halloween Pumpkins

Carving pumpkins or jack-o’-lanterns is a popular Halloween tradition. It originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland. Irish immigrants introduced the custom of carving pumpkins or Jack O’Lanterns to America.

Why are pumpkins associated with Halloween? Earlier there was no pumpkin. Jack-o’-lanterns were created with turnips or potatoes. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on Halloween’s Eve and set embers in them to ward off evil spirits. Later, they followed using pumpkin which was easier to carve and produced astounding “lanterns.”

Halloween and Pumpkins History

Halloween celebrations in the United States didn’t follow until some immigrants from Ireland and Scotland came in the mid-1800s.

1. Why Do We Use Pumpkins on Halloween?
  • A. To ward off evil
  • B. To cook
  • C. To gift
  • D. None of the above

It is believed that the tradition of making jack-o’-lanterns in Halloween time was first founded in Ireland. In the 19th century, “turnips or mangel wurzels, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque faces,” became a part of Halloween in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. 

Pumpkins are native to North America. The children’s magazine “Harper’s Young People” published in 1866 stated that “a great sacrifice of pumpkins” had been made for that year’s Halloween celebrations. Pumpkin carving became popular as the years went on. By the 1920s, Halloween had been welcomed throughout the US. Parties and costumes became the custom, and “trick or treating” was soon embraced as a festival in the mid-1930s.


Making a carved pumpkin was derived from an Irish myth that talks about Stingy Jack, who deceived the Devil for his own benefit. When Jack died, he wasn’t permitted to enter heaven and the Devil didn’t let him inside hell, so Jack was condemned to stay on earth for eternity. Consequently, Irish people started to carve demonic faces out of vegetables to frighten Jack’s wandering soul. Later, when Irish immigrants arrived in the US, they introduced carving jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins because they were native to the region.

Fun Fact about Pumpkins History

  • They made lanterns to signify supernatural beings or spirits or utilized to ward off evil spirits.
  • Sometimes carved pumpkins were used by Halloween participants to frighten people.
  • Some people carved pumpkins and set on windowsills to keep harmful spirits out of their homes.

· Some people suggested that jack-o’-lanterns representing Christian souls in purgatory like Halloween are the eve of All Saints ’ Day celebrated on 1 November or All Souls’ Day on 2nd November.

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