Carving pumpkins has been a part of most of our Halloween traditions for as long as we can remember, but have you ever wondered why?

Every year, families around Central New York head to their local pumpkin patch, pick out the very best pumpkins and then carve them into jack o'lanterns without stopping to ask why. We kind of wondered - why DO we do this?

Turns out, there actually is a reason - but it didn't start with pumpkins.

It starts with a Irish legend, according to - a guy named "Stingy Jack."

"According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use 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 into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul."

There are few more intervening events, but in the end, Jack dies - and because he can go to neither heaven nor hell, he's stuck wandering the earth, carrying a single lighted coal in a carved out turnip.

Yup, a turnip. 

Stingy Jack became known as Jack of The Lantern, and then that was shortened to, you guessed it: Jack O'Lantern. People took to carving vegetables like turnips and potatoes to ward off evil spirits. As the legend made it's way to the United States, people decided to carve a heartier North American fruit: the pumpkin.

So there you go. So next time you're carving a fruity pumpkin, remember the story of Stingy Jack and maybe don't try to shortchange the devil. 





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