The history of why we carve pumpkins traces its roots back to centuries-old Irish folklore.
Legend has it that an old drunk named Stingy Jack offered the devil his soul in exchange for one last drink. Jumping at the chance to claim Jack’s soul, the devil turned himself into a silver coin to pay the bartender. As he did so, Jack snatched the coin and thrust it into his pocket next to a crucifix, which prevented the devil from changing back. In a bind, the devil made a deal with Jack that he would not claim his soul when he died in exchange for Jack allowing him to return to his original form.
Years later, when Jack died, he was refused access to heaven because of his sinful deeds but also barred from hell because of the deal he’d made. The devil gave Jack a burning ember from the fires of hell and sent Jack away. Jack placed the ember inside a carved out turnip to light his path.
Thus, the story goes, Jack is forced to wander the earth with nothing but an eerie lantern for company. “Jack of the Lantern”, as he became known, eventually became jack-o’-lantern and this name has become synonymous with the lantern itself.