A jack-o'-lantern (sometimes also spelled Jack O'Lantern)is typically a carved pumpkin. It is associated chiefly with the holiday Halloween, and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called "ignis fatuus" or "jack-o'-lantern". In a jack-o'-lantern, typically the top is cut off, and the inside flesh then scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved onto the outside surface, and the lid replaced. At night a light (commonly a candle) is placed inside to illuminate the effect. The term is not particularly common outside North America, although the practice of carving lanterns for Halloween is.

Pumpkin craft

Sections of the pumpkin are cut out to make a design, often depicting a face. A variety of tools may be used to carve and hollow out the gourd, ranging from simple knives and spoons to specialized instruments, typically sold in holiday sections of grocery stores. Printed stencils can be used as a guide for increasingly complex designs. It is possible to create surprisingly artistic designs, be they simple or intricate in nature. After carving, a light source (traditionally a candle, sometimes an electric light) is placed inside the pumpkin and the top is put back into place. The light illuminates the design from the inside. Sometimes a chimney is carved in. But towards the end of the 20th century, artists began expressing every kind of idea they could imagine on pumpkins. Today, it is common to see portraits of political candidates, celebrities and cartoon characters.

North American tradition

Throughout Ireland and Britain, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede. [They continue to be popular choices today as carved lanterns in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although the British purchased a million pumpkins for Halloween in 2004. " [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4385812.stm Pumpkins Passions] ", "BBC", 31 October 2005. Retrieved on 19 October 2006. " [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4383216.stm Turnip battles with pumpkin for Hallowe'en] ", "BBC", 28 October 2005. Retrieved 23 September 2007.] But not until 1837 does "jack-o'-lantern" appear as a term for a carved vegetable lantern, [Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Great Carbuncle," in "Twice-Told Tales", 1837::Hide it [the great carbuncle] under thy cloak, say'st thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o'-lantern!] and the carved lantern does not become associated specifically with Halloween until 1866. ["Daily News" (Kingston, Ontario), November 1, 1866::The old time custom of keeping up Hallowe'en was not forgotten last night by the youngsters of the city. They had their maskings and their merry-makings, and perambulated the streets after dark in a way which was no doubt amusing to themselves. There was a great sacrifice of pumpkins from which to make transparent heads and face, lighted up by the unfailing two inches of tallow candle.Agnes Carr Sage, "Halloween Sports and Customs," "Harper's Young People", October 27, 1885, p. 828::It is an ancient Scottish custom to light great bonfires on Halloween, and carry blazing fagots about on long poles; but in place of this American boys delight in the funny grinning jack-o'-lanterns made of huge yellow pumpkins with a candle inside.] Significantly, both occurred not in Ireland or Britain, but in North America. Historian David J. Skal writes,:Although every modern chronicle of the holiday repeats the claim that vegetable lanterns were a time-honored component of Halloween celebrations in the British Isles, none gives any primary documentation. In fact, none of the major nineteenth-century chronicles of British holidays and folk customs make any mention whatsoever of carved lanterns in connection with Halloween. Neither do any of the standard works of the early twentieth century. [cite book
first = David J.
last = Skal
title = Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween
location = New York
publisher = Bloomsbury
year = 2002
pages = 32
id = ISBN 1-58234-230-X
The earliest reference to associate carved vegetable lanterns with Halloween in Britain is Ruth Edna Kelley, " [http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/boh/index.htm The Book of Hallowe'en] " (1919), Chapter 8, which mentions turnip lanterns in Scotland.

In America, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season in general, long before it became an emblem of Halloween. [As late as 1900, an article on Thanksgiving entertaining recommended a lit jack-o'-lantern as part of the festivities. " [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9800EEDC1139E033A25757C2A9679D94649ED7CF The Day We Celebrate: Thanksgiving Treated Gastronomically and Socially] ," "The New York Times", Nov. 24, 1895, p. 27. " [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9802E7D6173FE433A25752C2A9669D946197D6CF Odd Ornaments for Table] ," "The New York Times", Oct. 21, 1900, p. 12.] The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who was born in 1807, wrote in "The Pumpkin" (1850): [Whittier, John Greenleaf. [http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19022 "The Pumpkin"] .]

cquote|Oh!—fruit loved of boyhood!—the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!


. One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't get down. Another myth says that Jack put a key in the Devil's pocket while he was suspended upside-down.

Another version of the myth says that Jack was getting chased by some villagers from whom he had stolen, when he met the Devil, who claimed it was time for him to die. However, the thief stalled his death by tempting the Devil with a chance to bedevil the church-going villagers chasing him. Jack told the Devil to turn into a coin with which he would pay for the stolen goods (the Devil could take on any shape he wanted); later, when the coin/Devil disappeared, the Christian villagers would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil agreed to this plan. He turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack's wallet, only to find himself next to a cross Jack had also picked up in the village. Jack had closed the wallet tight, and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped.In both myths, Jack only lets the Devil go when he agrees never to take his soul. After a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, the Devil had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from hell as well. Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would see where to go, as he had no light, and the Devil mockingly tossed him an ember that would never burn out from the flames of hell. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which was his favourite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-Lantern.

There are variations on the

*Some versions include a "wise and good man", or even God helping Jack to prevail over the Devil.
*There are different versions of Jack's bargain with the Devil. Some variations say the deal was only temporary but the Devil, embarrassed and vengeful, refuses Jack entry to hell after Jack dies.
*Jack is considered a greedy man and is not allowed into either heaven or hell, without any mention of the Devil.
*In some variations, God gives Jack the turnip

Despite the colourful legends, the term "jack-o'-lantern" originally meant a night watchman, or man with a lantern, with the earliest known use in the mid-17th century; and later, meaning an "ignis fatuus" or will-o'-the-wisp. ["Jack-o'-lantern," "Oxford English Dictionary". The earliest citation is from 1663.] In Labrador and Newfoundland, both names "Jacky Lantern" and "Jack the Lantern" refer to the will-o'-the-wisp concept rather than the pumpkin carving aspect.

Pumpkin carving world records and pumpkin festivals

For a long time, Keene, New Hampshire held the world record for most jack-o'-lanterns carved and lit in one place. Life is Good [ [http://www.lifeisgood.com/about/ About Life is good] .] teamed up with Camp Sunshine, a camp for children with life threatening illnesses and their families, to break the record. A record was set on October 21, 2006 when 30,128 jack-o'-lanterns were simultaneously lit on Boston Common. [Michael Levenson and Kathy McCabe, [http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/10/22/a_love_in_common_for_pumpkins A love in Common for pumpkins] , "The Boston Globe", October 22, 2006, p. B6.]

Popular culture

*A character in the Megami Tensei series called Pyro Jack is based on the folklore of the Jack o' Lantern.

*In the beginning of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington appears as a scarecrow with a jack-o'-lantern for a head before lighting his head on fire with a torch he took from the crowd and diving into a fountain, possibly symbolizing his similarity to the Jack-O'-Lantern folklore.

*In the comic book Jack of Fables, the Jack O'Lantern story is attributed to Jack Horner, a character who has been the "true" inspiration for virtually every folklore "Jack" in history. (Jack Frost, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.)


ee also

* Pumpkin FestKeene, New Hampshire, former long-time world's record holder for most lit jack-o'-lanterns in one place.
* Pumpkin Carving Festival — Manchester, Vermont, record holder for "most pumpkins carved simultaneously".
* Pumpkin queen
* The Great Pumpkin
* Trick-or-treating
* Will o' the wisp

Further reading

* Ben Truwe, "The Halloween Catalog Collection". Medford, Oregon: Talky Tina Press, 2003. ISBN 0-9703448-5-6. Contains a well-documented history of the jack-o'-lantern as an emblem of Halloween.

*Jack O Lantern Productions is a comic series featuring a pumpkin-headed character named Jack and his friends Lucy,BIRDY,BEJ,Death,Sonicin,Zigz,a Zombie Emo,Red,and a Mii character named Random.

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