Carving up a Halloween tradition — the origin of Jack-o-lanterns

The fruit in question...pumpkins at the Vertuccio Farms Fall Festival

NEVN photography

The fruit in question…pumpkins at the Vertuccio Farms Fall Festival

Alex Keeler, Reporter

For centuries, two of the most common Halloween traditions involve carving spooky faces into pumpkins and dressing up in bone-chilling costumes for “treats”. 

But what do pumpkins have to do with Halloween? 

On Saturday, Northeast Valley News interviewed Fall Festival patrons at Vertuccio Farms in Mesa, Ariz. about the origins of our most famous fruit-carving tradition.  

“It’s honestly something that I’ve never really thought of,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, a single mother of three. “But I’ve been doing it (carving pumpkins) since I was a little girl and I plan on doing it with my little ones.” 

“I haven’t carved a pumpkin in years, but I always thought it had something to do with witches or something,” said David Aguilar, who was visiting the festival with his two grandchildren.  

Of the ten people who NEVN spoke to, only two people were aware of how this famous tradition began. 

One of the people who correctly guessed the origin, Racheal Craig, said she knew the answer thanks to a former teacher. 

“I only know the answer to this (the origin) because my teacher Mr. Thompson made us do research on Halloween back in eighth grade,” Craig said. 

As it turns out, the reason why we carve pumpkins comes from a famous Irish legend about a man named “Stingy Jack”, who had tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain. 

When Jack had eventually died, God wouldn’t let him into heaven for his sinful deeds, and the Devil wouldn’t let him into hell for taking advantage of him. As a result, Jack’s soul was forced to roam the earth for all eternity. 

In Ireland, people began carving ghoulish faces into turnips in hopes of scaring away Jack’s wandering soul. When Irish immigrants moved to North America, they brought this tradition with them, but instead of carving turnips they began using pumpkins, since they were native to the region and easier to carve than a turnip.