Carving Jack O' Lanterns is a Halloween custom that dates back to ancient
Ireland, although the first Jack-o-Lanterns were made of turnips, beets or
even hollowed out potatoes, not pumpkins. The large orange squashes didn't
come into prominence until Irish immigrants settled in the United States,
where pumpkins were cheaper and more plentiful than turnips.
Several version of an Irish legend tells of a man named Stingy Jack, who
invited the Devil to have a drink. When it came time to pay, he convinced
the Devil to change into a sixpence, but instead of paying for the drink
Jack pocketed the sixpence and kept it stored beside a silver cross, which
prevented the Devil from changing back. Jack made a deal with the Devil
before letting him free that the Devil could not harass him. Next Halloween
Jack died and was turned back from the Gates of Heaven. He went to the
of Hell and the Devil told him to go away, as Jack had made him promise not
to claim his soul. Jack didn't want to leave because it was dark and he
couldn't find his way. The Devil tossed Jack a glowing coal and Jack put it
inside a turnip, and ever since with this "Jack O' Lantern", Stingy jack's
lonely soul has been roaming the faces of this earth.
Another version has Jack tricking Beezelbub into climbing a tree, where
Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the
in his high perch. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never
tempt him again, he would promise to let Lucifer down from the tree.
According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to
Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell
because he had tricked the devil. The rest of the legend remains the same.