The idea of carving gourds into lanterns originated hundreds of years ago in Ireland, where people carved locally available turnips and potatoes. The practice was based on the legend of a character named “Stingy Jack”.
As the story goes, Jack tricked the Devil a number of times and made him promise not to claim his soul. When Jack eventually did die, neither God nor the Devil would claim his soul. Instead, Jack was left to wander the night with nothing but a burning coal (a sarcastic gift from the Devil) to light his way. Jack put that coal into a carved out turnip and used it as a lantern. And so developed the term Jack O’Lantern.
In Ireland and Scotland, folks began to carve scary faces into beets and turnips to ward off both wandering Jack and the Devil. Later, when immigrants from these countries came to America, they continued the tradition, using a perfect natively grown vessel; the pumpkin.
The modern interpretation of the Jack O’Lantern is less a tool to ward off evil spirits, and more of fall home decorating element. Carved pumpkins are lit on Halloween as a welcome sign for children out trick or treating. While scary faces are still popular, more modern and crafty interpretations of the pumpkin lantern can add a beautiful touch to your fall display.
Here are a few great ideas, courtesy of Sunset Magazine, Container Gardening and Martha Stewart Magazine, for decorating your home with pumpkin lanterns.
|House number lantern illuminate a front porch|
|This choir of butternut squash is so clever!|
|Carved out pumpkins make great fall plant containers|
|There’s no reason to stick to orange pumpkins, try green or even white gourds for your lanterns|