From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Holidays / Halloween  (Rated C-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Holidays, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Holidays on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the Halloween task force.


Pumpkin Carving redirects to Jack-o'-lantern, but shouldn't it be the other way round seeing as it's refered to Pumpkin Carving all over the world, and jack-o-lantern in just North America? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Samuelhale (talkcontribs) 16:22, 4 November 2008 (UTC)


According to, the correct spelling of this carved pumpkin is "jack-o'-lantern", not "jack o'lantern" or "Jack O'Lantern" or any such. - Brian Kendig 20:07, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The dictionaries may use "jack-o'-lantern," but that is the most ridiculous of all the spellings (apostrophe hyphen? wtf?) and I had never seen it until I came to the article here. I think any of the other variations is better: jack-o-lantern, jack'o'lantern, or Jack O'Lantern.Thoralor (talk) 06:13, 26 September 2016 (UTC)

This may, indeed, be true according to but it is my understanding that Jack O'Lantern was, for some unknown reason, removed from heaven and sent into darkness with only a gord or a pumpkin with a lump of coal. You can assume that he must have carved it to release the light from the burning coal. Curt Sigdestad

that jack-o'-lanterns were used in Halloween festivities in Ireland or Britain before the 20th century. Many histories of Halloween make the claim that they were, but none offers any pre-20th century documentation. See the quotation from David J. Skal in the article. — Walloon 04:40, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that is what I was writing, and you deleted me. The vegetable part seems to be an American innovation. But the story of Jack is firmly set in old Irish folklore and probably not connected with Halloween. Let's face the fact, that before electricity and before batteries, flaming lanterns were in very common usage, for how else would folk walk around on a moonless night! My reading on the subject is that Halloween wan not celebrated in Britain and that it connects with the Roman Catholic feast day of all souls and therefore celebrated in Ireland. It is also connected with the Irish festival of Samhain, which is the first day of winter on the old Irish calender. It never went Australia or New Zealand, which all but proves that it was not celebrated in Britain at all. Though it is beginning to catch on there due to the dominance of American culture. MelForbes 11:15, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
Has any historian offered a pre-20th century source documenting that "In ancient Ireland lighted lanterns were a feature of the Halloween festival"? (And what's with your rewriting the words in the direct quotations I used?) — Walloon 14:10, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
Halloween comes from the ancient celebration of Samhain, which was the first day of Winter in Ireland. I have read some books on the subject but unfortunately they are back in the library right now. See here origins of Halloween complete wit bibliography. MelForbes 23:09, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
I looked at it. The author's only mention of jack-o'-lanterns is, "The folks who were abroad in the night imitating the fairies would sometimes carry turnips carved to represent faces. This is the origin of our modern Jack-o-lantern." But like so many other authors, she offers no footnote source for that claim. As I said, documentation of such claims is wanting. — Walloon 18:05, 24 February 2007 (UTC)
Just to repeat, regarding an addition made today to the article (and removed): there is no known pre-20th century documentation of carved vegetable lanterns being associated with Halloween in Britain or Ireland. See the article itself for more information. — Walloon 16:15, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I have now found pre-20th century documentation of the practice of carving lanterns to scare people in Britain. The reference is made by Jabez Allies in a book published in 1840. But there is no mention of Halloween and the lantern is not called a 'Jack-O-Lantern', this innovation (of combining vegetable carvting, the Jack-O-Lantern nomeclature & Halloween night) appears to have originated in the U.S. Huxley10 (talk) 09:32, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

October 2013[edit]

I've researched this in depth. There appears to be no evidence linking carved root vegetables and Halloween in Ireland in the 19th Century. All accounts of Halloween that I've read do not mention it. It is almost certainly an American innovation. Unless evidence appears, can the article be corrected rather than perpetuating the myth that emigrants had to carve pumpkins as there were no turnips? The most detailed account of Halloween in Ireland in the 19th Century is an article in the Dublin Penny Journal published in 1834. You can read it here - carved turnips play no part in the festivities Huxley10 (talk) 13:46, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

Clearly you didn't research enough. In his (quite well-known) book Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, the prominent historian Ronald Hutton notes that they were used in the 19th century in parts of Ireland, Scotland and Somerset. Other books note the same thing. The Dublin Penny Journal article is about one Halloween night at one house in Ireland. It's hardly proof that nobody in Ireland used turnip lanterns at Halloween. Also, the fact that a Robert Burns poem doesn't mention them is hardly proof that they weren't used. ~Asarlaí 16:20, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
And what is the source for Hutton's broad claim? There is none of any substance I'm afraid. If you research the Somerset "punkie" night you'll see it was a Women's Institute that organised a formalised version of their harvest tradition in the mid-1950s (see Steve Roud)[1] and more importantly, it has nothing to do with Halloween. This is the point that you seem to be missing; yes vegetables have been carved into lanterns all over the world, but the association of Halloween and carved jack-o'-lanterns originated in the U.S. All else is folklore until you can provide evidence to contradict it. The onus of proof is on those claiming something without a shred of proof. Huxley10 (talk) 14:46, 9 October 2013 (UTC)
As a further point of interest, I've referenced all major works of Irish Folklore and can find nothing to link carved vegetables and Halloween - this includes the entire Irish Folklore Commission and Lady Gregory's research etc. To suggest that Irish emigrants brought the custom to the U.S. as fact, would mean to say that the only people who once practised the custom in Ireland emigrated, because it did not exist in the memory of the resident Irish in the late 19th/early 20th Century.Huxley10 (talk) 18:01, 9 October 2013 (UTC)
You may not realize it, but what you're doing goes against Wikipedia guidelines. You've found one article and one poem that don't mention the lanterns, and you're using those as proof the lanterns didn't exist ! What's the source for your claim that "there has yet to be evidence provided by historians that turnips were carved into lanterns in Ireland during Halloween, prior to the practice being present in the US"? Unless a reliable source says that, we can't put it in the article. Furthermore, telling Wikipedia readers that something didn't exist because you couldn't find a reference to it is original research.
I've provided a reliable source that carved jack-o'-lanterns were used at Halloween in parts of Ireland and Britain in the 19th century. It's from a book by an acclaimed historian that is based on contemporary accounts. I could add dozens more sources supporting the claim but I thought Hutton's book was enough.
Also, Steve Roud's book says that Punkie Night existed well before the 1950s. It says that Punkie Night "seems to have previously been a simple house-visiting custom, but was reorganized by members of the local Women's Institute in the mid twentieth century". ~Asarlaí 01:45, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Nice lecture - Did you miss the section of OR that states "This includes any analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not advanced by the sources" - If you actually bothered to read Hutton's book rather than committing contextomy you would see he is also far from certain about the history of the Jack-O-Lantern and cannot explain the lack of reference or mention of them in 19th Century sources in the UK/Ireland. In other words you are misappropriating his work to advance your own position. Final Point: Please provide a source (primary) that proves that Jack-O-Lantern's were carved in Ireland or the UK prior to 1866 (this being the earliest known association between Jack-O-Lantern and Halloween in the U.S.) If you cannot do that then you cannot make such a simplistic claim about it's origin. Also you continue to stress that I've used only two sources to "prove" they did not exist - these are contemporary accounts of Halloween in Ireland and Scotland. So I put it to you; can you show me a contemporary account of Halloween in Ireland and Scotland, where the Jack-O-Lantern is present? P.S: "Punkie Night" only goes back as far the early 20th century[2] , do you have proof of it being practised in the mid-19th century or earlier? And again, regardless of whether you do, it has no association with Halloween. Huxley10 (talk) 10:59, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
Major update - found evidence of Jack-O-Lantern style custom (not Halloween related, more general practice) in England in the late 18th Century - see Origin section of the page. Huxley10 (talk) 16:29, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
The content you removed is fully supported by a reliable source and there is no misrepresentation whatsoever. Here is what you removed: In the 19th century, Halloween guisers in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands commonly used jack-o'-lanterns made from turnips and mangelwurzels. They were "often carved with grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins". [...] They were also used at Halloween in Somerset (see Punkie Night).
Now here's a direct quote from the source supporting it, page 382 of Hutton's book: "The traditional illumination for guisers or pranksters abroad on the night in some places was provided by turnips or mangel wurzels, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque fances to represent spirits or goblins. They were common in Ireland and found in Sutherland in the late nineteenth century, but by that time were also a well-established local custom in southern and western Somerset".
No position is being advanced. It's merely reporting what reliable sources say – that Halloween jack-o'-lanterns existed in parts of Ireland and Britain during the 19th century. Thus, there's no excuse for removing it from the article.
The following claims you added to the article aren't supported by reliable sources...
  • "the innovation of carving a Jack-O-Lantern specifically to celebrate Halloween was first recorded in the U.S. in 1866" — which reliable source actually says this?
  • "there has yet to be evidence provided by historians that turnips were carved into lanterns in Ireland during Halloween, prior to the practice being present in the U.S." — which reliable source actually says this?
  • "The Irish Folklore Commission, Daniel Deeney, Thomas Johnson Westropp and Seán Ó Súilleabháin also found no trace of the Jack-O-Lantern being present on Halloween night in Ireland in the 19th century" — (1) there's no source supporting the claim about the Irish Folklore Commission; (2) the Daniel Deeney book doesn't even mention Halloween; (3) on what page of Westropp's book does he say that he "found no trace" of Halloween lanterns?; (4) Ó Súilleabháin only mentions Halloween briefly. He doesn't say he "found no trace" of Halloween lanterns and he doesn't mention the 19th century. He also doesn't mention guising (which we know was a Halloween custom in 19th-century Ireland). Does that mean guising didn't exist either? Again, you're telling Wikipedia readers that something didn't exist because you found a few sources that don't mention it.
~Asarlaí 17:25, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
What is Ronald Hutton's source for his claim in relation to Ireland? Is it documentary? (like I just found for Worchester - thought you'd be impressed) or is it another Secondary source? Then we can discuss reliability. It's worth noting that Hutton does not infer that the practice he is referring to, was specific to Halloween at that time. Re: the list of Irish Folklorists, it's very significant that none of them refer to this supposed common custom. Any luck finding that elusive source yourself? Huxley10 (talk) 19:59, 16 October 2013 (UTC)


Because this article is about "jack-o'-lanterns", I have deleted "turnip" from the opening sentence. Carved turnips, while they certainly existed in Ireland and Britain, were not called "jack-o'-lanterns" and were not associated with Halloween. The article does mention turnips later on. Carving turnips is a thing of the past in Britain. Jack-o'-lanterns in Britain today are exclusively carved pumpkins — Brits bought one million pumpkins for Halloween in 2004. — Walloon 02:22, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

I beg to differ - Jack O' Lanterns in the UK are certainly not exclusively pumpkins. In Scotland and Northern Ireland at least, its turnips which Jack O' Lanterns are made with. In fact, in Northern Ireland in particular, pumpkins are not easy to pick up from shops as most shops don't stock them.
Also, Ireland and/or the rest of the British Isles having been the land in which the tradition and story originated - in a time before pumpkins were even known of there, I think its important to show that this was the original veg used to make them. In the USA, pumpkins were basically used because they were plentiful and easier to carve. --Mal 04:49, 29 September 2006 (UTC)
Halloween in Britain has only become Americanised in the last twenty years or so. Growing up in northern England the 1970s and early-80s, British kids carved turnips and in fact how to do so was regularly explained around the time on Blue Peter. It was known that American kids had carved pumpkins, but they were simply not available in the UK, and similarly "Trick or Treating" was not something done here. Nick Cooper 13:18, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Jack O'Lanterns at Halloween are by no means an Amercian invention!

When I was a child in Sunderland in North-East England during the 1960's all the kids made Jack O'Lanterns from huge turnips - it was more popular then than it is now! I can date this precisely as we moved away from Sunderland in 1970. It was a long long tradition then and certainly not some import from America. No one I knew had ever been to America!

By the same token, Trick or Treating is a US import of Scottish 'Guising'. Nick Cooper probably doesn't realise this as the tradition never spread south of the border. jcleary 13:12, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

Just to jump in here, but guising is not 'Scottish' in particular, although I have seen that on tourist websites. It can be found all over. The word 'geezer' derives from it incidentally. It's not just Americans who think they invented everything. Actually nationalism is responsible for 'inventing everything' but there we are.... Hakluyt bean 12:50, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
The article already does say: "In Scotland and Ireland, there is a long tradition of carving lanterns from vegetables, particularly the turnip, mangelwurzel, or swede."
And to jump in separately, I've changed this: it's not just Scotland and Ireland for obvious reasons. What did people in England and Wales do, wander around in the dark? Hakluyt bean 12:50, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
However, there is no evidence that carved vegetable lanterns were called jack-o'-lanterns in Britain or Ireland before the 20th century, or that they were specifically associated with Halloween before the 20th century. The term jack-o'-lantern in Britain and Ireland, from the 17th century to the 20th century, referred to the will-o'-the-wisp phenomenon, and not until after the First World War will you find any British usage to mean a carved vegetable lantern. The American innovations are this: 1) carving vegetable lanterns from pumpkins; 2) calling them jack-o'-lanterns (earliest known use, 1837); 3) associating them specifically with Halloween.
There is no evidence that the American custom of trick-or-treating comes from any British or Irish antecedent, and I refer you to that Wikpedia article for more information. The first big wave of Irish immigration to American came in the 1840s, and British and Irish immigration to American peaked in the 1880s, yet ritual begging on Halloween was virtually unknown in America before the 1930s, and did not become widespread until after World War II. And it spread from the western United States, eastward. If you can find any primary documentation (not secondary) of masking or costuming on Halloween in Britain or Ireland before 1900, I'd be very interested to see it. — Walloon 15:07, 8 October 2007 (UTC)

It is known that traditionally, carved vegetable lanterns, or as they are now called, jack o'lanterns, were traditionally made from swedes or mangelwurzels, as mentioned on the Radio 4 programme You and Yours on October 29, 2007. I suggest that the modification to this article comes at the beginning. Perhaps, to ensure accuracy, a sentence along the effects of "Although traditionally, the jack o'lantern has been made from a variety of vegetables (and examples could be cited), today, they jack o'lanterns tend to be made from pumpkins" could be added to the start of the article. ACEOREVIVED 16:13, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

Cultural References?[edit]

Films about Jack O'Lanterns, etc? Just a thought..

--Elín 00:40, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps a link to the upcoming film "Trick R Treat"? I see there's an entry on it. Jack O'Lanterns figure heavily in the plot. — 00:39, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

"Jack O' My Lantern" is 1880 short story by Joel Chandler Harris told in pseudo black dialect in Uncle Rhemus series. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:42, 29 September 2007 (UTC)

I think you mean Uncle Remus and "Jacky-My-Lantern". The "jacky-my-lantern" in that story refers to a will-o'-the-wisp type phenomenon near a swamp, and not to a carved vegetable lantern. — Walloon 00:03, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

As a (proud) American, I find it scandalous that no one has mentioned Ichabod Crain out of Washington Irving's Knickerbocker Tales', "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Probably the best Hallowe'en story out there after 150 years or more of trying. Definitely a cultural-historical landmark for this article.Daniel Sparkman (talk) 19:52, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

Cultural shifts[edit]

Has anyone documented a shift in Jack-O-Lanterns from evil, mischievous grins to jolly smily faces? I mean how scary is stuff like this: [1]? Is this what Halloween was 50 years ago? -Rolypolyman 23:56, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Yes. As seen in this museum gallery of Halloween cards from the early 20th century, both types of jack-o'-lanterns have been popular. — Walloon 01:05, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Great reference. Thanks! -Rolypolyman 15:46, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

How-to instructions on carving[edit]

The section on how to carve a jack-o'-lantern has been removed under the WIkipedia rule: Wikipedia is not a manual:

While Wikipedia has descriptions of people, places, and things, Wikipedia articles should not include instructions, advice (legal, medical, or otherwise) or suggestions, or contain "how-to"s. This includes tutorials, walk-throughs, instruction manuals, game guides, and recipes.

Walloon 12:50, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

The Jack-O-Lantern and Indian Summer[edit]

I don't have enough to include this in the article, but in elementary school a teacher taught us that the popularity in North America of the Jack-O-Lantern is related to warding off indian attcaks on settlers smallholdings.

Maybe someone has more/enough on this to include it?

In many areas in North America, late October brought with it a period of warmer weather, used by indian tribes as a last chance to atack settlers before winter set in and travel became more difficult. It is from this that, in North America, this period of warmer weather is called "indian summer".

Seeing lit Jack-o-lanterns in cabin windows, and having no idea what they were, the indians are supposed to have assumed that they were evil spirits and moved on. Noticing that houses with Jack-o-lanterns avoided attack other settlers, even those with no cultural traditions associated with this time of year, started carving jack-o-lanterns and placing them in their windows.

While this is a plausible explanation or its popularity in North America, it does not, of course, explain the origin of the Jack-o-lantern.

I have no evidence to support this, but just thinking things through logically, in the Northern hemisphere October tend to be a very dark month. Nights are getting longer, it is a rainy (cloudy) month and there is no snow on the ground to reflect what little available light there is.

A light left in the window of a cabin could well have been important to help one find his way home to his cabin.

If, as the article suggests, pumpkins and other vegetables had earlier been used as homemade lanterns, it is logical that imigrant settlers might have continued to make these. As the need for these would have coincided with the various traditional celebrations of the season, it makes some sense that they might have been incorpurated into he traditions of these celebrations. 07:30, 1 November 2007 (UTC)

Fine. Just find some primary documentation to support this theory you heard from your elementary school teacher. — Walloon 07:38, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
Ah more made up nonsense! I rest my case. jcleary (talk) 12:59, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

WikiProject Halloween[edit]

Anyone interested in exploring the idea of a Wikiproject for Halloween kindly contact me on my talk page. Thank you.--otherlleft (talk) 21:03, 13 October 2008 (UTC)


The folklore section is an unsourced narrative. Is it better to remove or dig up some sources?--otherlleft (talk) 03:13, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

In Portugal and Galicia section[edit]

Again, as I said in my edit comment when I removed this before the anon returned it all again, the vast majority of the content added to this new section is completely irrelevant to Jack-o'-lanterns, and the parts that might be relevant do not have reliable sources and therefore should not be there. There's only so much room we could give to info on a small region anyway even if reliable sources were to be found. DreamGuy (talk) 23:54, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

Nonsense. The sources are reliable. You do not understand either Portuguese or Spanish, I think that this is the problem.
Just say which source you think is not reliable and I can explain to you why it is. The sources go from dictionaries to official ::websites recognized by the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity for Portuguese and Galician culture, published authors and even ancient authors like João de Barros. Secondly you can not erase sourced information just because you do not understand what is written. And thirdly, you should not be surprised with some common tradition that may be very alike all over Europe.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
I've reverted your edits, anon. Until you can find a consensus for these edits, you may not re-add them, as doing so fosters both incivility and edit-warring. - Arcayne (cast a spell) 14:57, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
DreamGuy`s argument is that there are no reliable sources which is not true and he just reverted my edit without any other explanation. He said : "even if reliable sources were to be found", I answered and there was no reply. Why don´t you ask someone from the Galician and Portuguese or Spanish portals if those are reliable sources??? Someone that understand the language for a change, if not mythology or folklore. Otherwise I can only say it is a bad faith reversion. As it says in the article "A jack-o'-lantern (sometimes also spelled Jack O'Lantern) is typically a carved pumpkin." what is this: [2] Editorial/Vigo. Ir Indo Edicións, 2003/ISBN / ref 84-7680-492-X; and this : [3][4] I gave you the pictures as well for comparison. But if you doubt the possibility read Gaels the Mythological origins sections , it can give some light, it is all about mythology anyway. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:37, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Avoiding discussion of DreamGuy's conduct, let's focus on your sources. To begin with, the opatrimonio image links you provided are not GDFL-free images, so we cannot use those, though I suspect you were not seeking their inclusion but rather to be used a visual comparison between festivities in parts of Europe and here. If the latter, the problem presented is that making such comparisons isn't allowed. We as editors are not empowered to evaluate comparisons in images beyond a certain degree, as per our Original Research policy, and specifically the Synthesis facet of that policy.
Additionally, you added the link to a book about Galician history as it pertains to the Festival of Samhain. This is an example of reliable sourcing, so long as you are stating precisely what is being said in the book. Your interpretation of that material is not allowed, as you- as an editor - are not citable. If you can provide specific text (with translation) that supports your comments, you might find more acceptance of the additions you are seeking for the article. - Arcayne (cast a spell) 16:52, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
"The autumnal and childish custom of emptying pumpkins and carving on its bark, eyes, nose and mouth looking for a sombre expression, far from being a tradition imported by a recent Americanizing cultural mimicry, is a cultural trait in ancient Iberian Peninsula."[23] The translations and references are in the article Cuco under the section Heads. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:57, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

Minor vandalism[edit]

Somebody's being such a wit by changing 'pumpkin' to 'watermelon' and adding references to cheesecake. A mod might wish to keep a closer eye on this page until the season is over.

Corgi (talk) 17:37, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

Can some one please remove misleading statement in first paragraph?[edit]

In the first paragraph, we are told that the term jack o'lantern is not common outside North America. This is nonsense. I live in the United Kingdom, where the term has been in common parlance for as long as I can remember. Can some please remove this daft

statement as soon as possible? Many thanks, ACEOREVIVED (talk) 21:01, 2 December 2009 (UTC)


Can we have another review of the Origin section of this page? The sole justification for the inclusion of the claim that Jack O'Lantern carving originated in Ireland is Ronald Hutton's work which does not refer to any contemporary primary source documentation. Hutton himself is unsure of the claim. Huxley10 (talk) 13:44, 3 December 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ Roud, Steve. "The English Year". Penguin UK. Retrieved 09/10/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt (2011). Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America's Fright Night. Pelican Publishing. p. 222.