The Jack o' Lantern is one of the most iconic images associated with Halloween, and it is one of the things that "it just isn't Halloween" without. There is just something gratifying as a kid (of any age) about scooping out the slimy pumpkin guts and carving out a glowing face. Who am I kidding...I still love it (duh)! Now as a "grown up" my pumpkins have gone from triangle-eyed faces to grimacing ghouls and Halloween scenes. We take Jack o' Lanterns for granted as a symbol for Halloween, but where did they come from, and why on earth do we cut holes in an oversized gourd for just for late October kicks?
Replicating the story of Stingy Jack, young men started carving turnips and pumpkins to scare travellers into thinking they had met Jack of the Lantern. Children carried the craved gourds to represent the trapped souls of loved ones in Purgatory on All Saints Day and All Souls Day. From there it became a tradition to carve and light the gourds and over the years it became less religious and mischievous and more decorative and indicative of Halloween.
So there we have it! The origins of the Jack o' Lantern. Pretty neat, huh?