Why do we carve up pumpkins on Halloween?

Kids in fancy dress can get in free to the Old Hall Halloween Hunt when accompanied by a paying adult.
Kids in fancy dress can get in free to the Old Hall Halloween Hunt when accompanied by a paying adult.

On October 19, Gainsborough Old Hall’s Halloween Hunt goes live with free entry for every child in costume when accompanied by a paying adult, writes Victoria Mason-Hines.

But why do we carve out pumpkins on Halloween ?

The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed ‘Stingy Jack’.

Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him and convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin to buy their drinks.

Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back.

Jack freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother him for a year, nor claim his soul should Jack die.

The next year, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree.

Jack carved a sign of the cross into the bark so that the Devil could not come down until he promised Jack not to bother him for ten years.

When Jack died God would not allow him into heaven and the Devil, keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow him into hell.

He sent Jack off into the night with only a burning coal.

Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since.

The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as ‘Jack of the Lantern’ and then, simply ‘Jack O’Lantern’.

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and evil spirits

Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o’lantern tradition with them when they went to the USA, where they soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, made perfect jack o’lanterns.

Victoria Mason-Hines is events experience manager at Gainsborough Old Hall.