The history of the Jack-O-Lantern dates back to several centuries ago.
According to the History Channel, the carving of pumpkins started with an Irish myth about a man called “Stingy Jack.” The myth states that Jack tricked the devil on numerous occasions. One time, after having drinks with the devil, Jack convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could pay for the drinks with it. However, Jack decided to keep the coin. He put it next to a cross in his pocket, preventing the devil from changing back into himself. Jack eventually allowed the devil to turn back into himself, with the stipulation that the devil should not claim Jack’s soul when he dies.
In the story, Jack tricked the devil again the following year, this time leaving him stuck up in a tree.
According to the myth, Jack eventually died. When he did, God wouldn’t let him into heaven because of how he acted on Earth. And the devil kept his word and didn’t claim his soul, thereby not letting him enter hell. The devil sent Jack away with a burning coal to use as a light. According to the History Channel, Jack carved out a turnip and placed the burning coal inside of it.
In Ireland, people began calling him “Jack of the Lantern” and eventually “Jack-O-Lantern.”
People began carving out various vegetables – and eventually pumpkins in the U.S. – to scare away Stingy Jack and other spirits from roaming near their home.