a man is carving a jack o lantern

Why Do We Carve Pumpkins On Halloween?

You must've heard of many customs of Halloween. People would dress up in costumes and go to the disguised party or Halloween parades, and some Trick or Treat around the neighborhood. Wait! Have you ever thought about why we eat pumpkin pies? You might know the answer already, because we must use pumpkins to make Jack O' Lanterns, and insist on the idea that we shouldn't be wasting pulp, moms would make the rest parts into pumpkin pies. But, why Jack O' Lanterns or pumpkin lanterns has been kept as a tradition for Halloween? Well, this article will lead you to the history of this old custom.

Why are pumpkins used at Halloween?

The point was always about the lantern but not the pumpkins, and the lanterns earlier are not made of pumpkins at all. Pumpkins were made of turnips. Halloween got introduced to North America by immigrants from Ireland and Scotland. It was later accepted and become popular in countries like the USA and Canada. Some Halloween traditions quickly mixed with local culture and then, you may see many North American indigenous elements being used on this holiday. As you may figure out the answer, that's why pumpkin becomes the subject of lantern carving. Pumpkins were local plants of North America and what makes them suitable for lantern carving is that they are a type of gourd that ripe at the end of late autumn, which is pretty close to the date of Halloween. Also, pumpkins' shells get hardened when they rip, so the hard shell makes it easier to carve and shove. As a result, the pumpkin lantern is a sign of the mixing of European Celtic culture and North American Culture.

History of carved pumpkins

Well, it all started with the festival of Samhain(Called SOW-in). Back in the old days in Ireland, the priests or the Celtic druids and people would open turnips, empty their guts and gulp inside, and put embers and light inside. They did this thing to chase the darkness and evil stuff away. The functions of these lanterns are huge back in the old days. Thinking about the medieval north remote villages, the longer nights and darkness in the late autumn, colder temperatures, and the superstitious beliefs that the boundary between the human world and the underworld is the thinnest, it seems pretty reasonable for Irish people to make something bright and exaggerated to chase the darkness and ghosts away.

What's funny was that Ireland didn't have any pumpkins, only after the Irish potato famine migration, was Halloween introduced to North America, and the tradition combined with indigenous plant pumpkin and the Jack-O-Lantern became one of the Halloween traditions in America, and turnips were replaced ever since.

What is the source of the Jack-O-Lantern?

In order to understand what Jack-O-Lantern means and what it implies, we need to first learn the meaning of the word itself. We all know that lanterns are a sort of portable light you can carry around, and the "O" in the middle is the abbreviation of "Of". Then what does "Jack" mean? Well, the most popular tale about it is about a man called Stingy Jack. Jack tricked the devil multiple times and offered the devil a deal to not take his soul for a very long time. Yet eventually, time caught up with him, and the devil sentenced that he can't go to the heil, since he couldn't go to heaven either, as a result, he can only roam the Earth for the whole of eternity with nothing but a lantern. That's where it all begins.

Nowadays, Jack is usually used as a metaphor for a spirit. The identities vary a lot. It could be a bad soul or a good one. Sometimes it's a folkloric figure as well.

Hey! If you're too tired and don't want to carve your own Jack-O-Lantern, why not come to PlushThis to check out our Jack-O-Lantern stuffed pillow? It is soft, cute, and funny. Come bring this back to your home to add some festive elements!

How to Find Pumpkin Light Alternatives Without Pumpkins

While Halloween became more and more popular in recent years, there are more and more mainstream cultural elements blended into the celebration of Halloween. As for Jack-O-Lantern, people's creations are not only limited to pumpkins. There are many innovative creations of the Halloween lantern as an alternative to pumpkin lanterns for people to show their personalities. There are also area around the world like Canada that pumpkins are getting less and less, people are also seeking ways to replace pumpkins to celebrate.

Pineapple version of Jack-O-Lantern

Take out your knife(better be a sharp one, but be careful!), and start cutting and digging and carving a pineapple for a Jack-O-Lantern this time! The rough surface of pineapples and sharp and hard green leaves on top makes it more like a ghost and funnier. Maybe pineapple is a better choice to simulate ghosts? Well, that's my personal opinion.

Watermelon alternative

How about some greenish Halloween color match for the house? The big green watermelon is a perfect alternative to traditional orange pumpkins. The dark green strips on the surface make the face of the lantern look weirder and funnier. That's Halloween! Some creepy and scary stuff along with funny elements. I bet watermelon is a great option as well.

Orange Alternative

Well, here comes a mini version of the Jack-O-lantern! Peel your orange carefully, try to make it off as one part, then carve the face on the peel, put lights in, and seal the head! You will get a mini lantern easily. Since orange has a similar color, it will look like a mini pumpkin! Also, if you feel hard peeling the orange, then just rip it randomly, then stitch it back together, I'm it'll has a better effect than the normal one!


All in all, as a key tradition of Halloween, maybe the original religious or ritual functions have become less symbolic, but the time keeps moving on and the way of celebrating Halloween keeps evolving, the pumpkin lantern will still remain a very important part of the Halloween culture and the memories and happiness of carving pumpkins with family every year will never fade away. Also, don't forget to come to PlushThis for Halloween-themed stuffed animals! All kinds of creepy and funny ghosts, we got them all! If you don't have any clue what to buy, you can take reference to this article which includes our suggestions for the best stuffed animals for Halloween in 2023!



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