Written by Alleah

Modified & Updated: 23 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin carvings

Halloween is the time of the year where all things spooky and creepy come out. In the US, traditions like pumpkin carving and trick or treating are the star of this occasion. But have you ever wondered why pumpkin lanterns are so popular during this season? In these jack-o’-lantern facts, you’d discover a whole new world of history, tradition, and present practices looped into one big holiday. This orange lantern ornament extends its rich history not only in America but also across the world. 

  1. In 1663, the term jack-o’-lantern refers to a night watchman who literally carries a lantern.
  2. An Irish folktale, Stingy Jack, was the inspiration of jack-o’-lanterns.
  3. Jack-o’-lanterns started as a prank of carved faces out from crudes but became a seasonal decoration in the 19th century.
  4. Halloween started becoming a celebration in the 1800s and it eventually became a popular occasion where jack-o’-lanterns get displayed.
  5. If you want the jack-o’-lantern to last to a maximum of 10 days, place it at a temperature of 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. Jack-o’-lanterns are carved turnip or pumpkin lanterns that are famous decorations on Halloween.
  2. In reality, the lights nicknamed jack-o’-lanterns are not ghosts or fairies but are friar’s lanterns or also known as foolish fires.
  3. The lighting of the jack-o’-lanterns are from the  Samhain which is a Celtic Holiday which is a celebration for “summer’s end.”
  4. Jack-o’-lanterns also refer to flickering and strange lights that are seen on wetlands.
  5. To make a jack-o’-lantern, the top of the turnip or pumpkin is cut off and the flesh is scooped out to carve a comical or monstrous face.
  6. The lantern effect is achieved by putting a light source inside the jack-o’-lantern before it closes it.
  7. A yearly exhibition in New York known as the ‘Rise of the Jack-o’-Lantern’ features around 5,000 pumpkins that are professionally carved.
  8. The Irish people brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition to America.
  9. Not all pumpkin varieties can be made as jack-o’-lanterns.
  10. In Ireland, jack-o’-lanterns are from the carvings of potatoes or turnips instead of gourds and pumpkins.
  1. It is an ancient belief that jack-o’-lanterns represent the Christian souls that are in purgatory.
  2. The largest jack-o’-lantern weighs 2,077 pounds and it was made on October 6, 2018, for the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival.
  3. Ray Villafane is an Arizona-based artist that creates hyper-realistic 3-D style jack-o-lantern carvings.
  4. There’s a supervillain in the Spider-Man movie named Jack O’Lantern.
  5. Glowing jack-o’-lanterns are not only ornaments, they are set on windows and porches to welcome deceased loved ones as well as protection from malevolent spirits.
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Jack-O'-Lantern Facts Infographics

Jack-O'-Lantern Facts Infographics

The life of a blacksmith from Ireland was the known origin of jack-o'-lanterns.

There are many stories about where jack-o’-lanterns come from. According to sources, the Irish are the first to claim its origins. Legend says that in the 18th century, a blacksmith from Ireland named Jack made a pact with a devil. After his death, he was given the curse to walk the face of the earth without an end. Since he was afraid of the dark, he went to Lucifer and was asking for light to bring with him. He was given a burning ember which was put on a turnip that’s hollowed-out to serve as a lantern. From there, the evolution of the jack-o’-lanterns came to be.

Jack-o'-lantern is a must have creative carving on Halloween.  

pumpkin carving, halloween jack-o'-lantern
Image from Adobe Stock

These jack-o’-lantern facts will make us realize how creative people are in so many ways. In the US, these lanterns are usually from pumpkin carvings. But it’s surprising to know that you can also do it on turnips and potatoes. You can even customize your own lanterns. The pumpkin or turnip is cut and the inside scooped out so that you can make your creative carving masterpiece. Some prefer doing comical faces but on Halloween, a monstrous face is the most common.

There have been a lot of jack-o'-lantern and pumpkin poems made through the years.  

We cannot deny that Halloween is a celebration that we look forward to. Most people prepare their homes for Halloween parties and the kids would go around the neighborhood doing tricks or treats. Of course, the celebration would not be complete without all the spooky decorations. And it’s fair to say that jack-o’-lanterns are common and a constant through the years. Because of its popularity, a lot of poems were made about it. A few of the known ones were that of Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts, “The Pumpkins”; John Tabb’s, “Jack-O’-Lantern”; and James Whitcomb Riley’s, “When the Frost is on the Punkin”.

Pumpkins for jack-o'-lanterns are accessible everywhere. 

Well, except for Antarctica. That’s no surprise as we have to consider that the place is an icy tundra 24/7. But apart from that, pumpkins grow everywhere! It can survive anywhere in the world and because of this, you can make your jack-o’-lanterns no matter where you’re at. In fact, the United States produces at least 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin each year. Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, and Ohio are the states that are the top producers of pumpkins. These jack-o’-lantern facts are truly amazing!

You can also do a lot of things with pumpkins apart from carving jack-o'-lanterns. 

When the Irish brought the tradition of jack-o’-lanterns here in the US, they were using turnips or beets. But when they tried to do it in pumpkins, they found it easier to carve. Also, pumpkins can grow after 3-4 months which is quite fast. When you plant it in June or July, your pumpkin will be ready for harvest around October and November which is ready for the season where the demand for pumpkins is high. Plus, everything that you can see on a pumpkin plant is edible! From the skin, flowers, seeds, pulps, and stem- everything is fit for human consumption.

The City of Keene holds the Guinness World title with the most jack-o'-lanterns lit in one place. 

In 2013, the pumpkin festival in Keene, New Hampshire had the most number of jack-o’-lanterns lit. Before having the Guinness World Record title, the bragging rights belonged to Boston which had a previous record of 28,952 jack-o’-lanterns. However, Keene got so competitive it had 30,581 pumpkin carvings for the event. That’s definitely a lot of pumpkins and lanterns!

The lighting of jack-o'-lanterns traces back to the Samhain feast. 

The Halloween that we celebrate today traces its roots from the Samhain festival by the ancient Celtics. It’s the end of the summer harvest. During the Samhain, the celts will wear costumes and light bonfires. They will walk around and this is done to ward off bad and evil spirits. The lighting of the bonfire soon became the lighting of carved turnips which then evolved to the jack-o’-lantern that we are familiar with now. What’s interesting about all these jack-o’-lantern facts is that the original and traditional name of the night before the Samhain festival is All Hallow’s Eve.

Jack-o'-lantern is also a common display on Beggars' Night. 

Des Moines has this tradition known as Beggars’ Night. It happens the night before the actual Halloween events. The celebration is for the young children in the city so that they can also enjoy Halloween in a safer way. The tradition began in 1938 and the event is similar to the usual trick or treating. Everything in the neighborhood has the same decorations for Halloween, too. What’s unique about it is that instead of just knocking on the door and getting the candy after saying “trick or treat“, the kids need to perform a trick or say a joke or poem to the house owner. Indeed, it’s a fun way to spark a kid’s creativity.

kids trick or treating, halloween
Image from Adobe Stock

There are tips and tricks on how to make the perfect jack-o'-lantern.  

We have all been on the road of trying to carve the perfect jack-o’-lantern. But it’s also fun to learn from the best, right? According to Master Carvers, pumpkins should have a pumpkin bath before you start carving it. Right after, etching must follow, and then that’s the time you can start scooping the vegetable out. Remember to scoop from the back and avoid doing it from the top. Next, it’s better to keep the stem and then seal it with the use of Vaseline to keep it longer. If in any case, you find your jack-o’-lantern a bit sad or droopy, just toss it on a water bath for at least an hour, and voila! You’d get an instant fix for your pumpkins.

You can craft a jack-o'-lantern on Minecraft.  

For those who do not know, Minecraft is a virtual world video game. The players can craft, mine, dig, and build things. It’s typically a sandbox game since the players can make their virtual reality. In this game, you can make your own virtual jack-o’-lanterns, too. All you need to do is look for a pumpkin and use shears to carve it. They are usually only for decorations but there are times when they can also be an avenue to make iron and snow golems.

Jack-o'-lanterns must be away from cold and freezing temperatures.

If you want to keep your jack-o’-lanterns looking good and fresh for as long as possible, make sure that your base pumpkins are kept away from freezing areas. It has too much exposure from cold, it will inevitably rot faster and it will thaw. Make sure that it’s around 50-58 degrees Fahrenheit so that your jack-o’-lanterns can ideally thrive longer than usual. All these jack-o’-lantern facts will make us think that these things have a life on its own.

Bleach solutions can also help preserve your jack-o'-lanterns.  

It’s not easy to carve these ornaments for Halloween and you’d definitely want your efforts to be on display for people to see. To stave the growth of fungus on your pumpkins, spray it with the use of a bleach solution. Also, try to bring your lanterns indoors when it’s not yet time for the display to save it from too much exposure from the sun and other affecting factors that might destroy it faster.

The pumpkins for jack-o'-lanterns are prone to browning as soon as you cut into it. 

A great tip from the expert carvers in these jack-o’-lantern facts list is that you should wait until the very last moment before you start carving. Fruits and vegetables like pumpkins are prone to browning. Only carve it out when you’re sure that you could get it done right away and the event or occasion is near. The browning of the pumpkin is because of the enzymes and phenols reacting with oxygen. The good thing here though is that acidic properties like lemon juice can block for some time these browning effects. So make sure that you squirt a bit of lemon juice on the pumpkin’s exterior.

You can make jack-o'-lanterns from all 45 varieties of pumpkins.

One thing you should know is that there are many kinds of pumpkins that you can find in markets and farms. To be exact, there are 45 of them. Yes, all of these varieties are edible and they’re pretty nutritious, too. The most popular ones are the jack-o’-lantern pumpkins because they are tougher and they have a perfect size. Some carvers prefer using the Lumina pumpkins because they turn out to be beautifully creepy. Of course, you can always use other pumpkin varieties but it’s best to stick to those types that are tougher and bigger in size so that carving won’t be too difficult to do.

Jack-o'-lanterns are the main culprits of pumpkin wastage every year.  

Don’t get us wrong, jack-o’-lanterns are integral and important symbols of Halloween in the US. But we also cannot deny that since the main component in making jack-o’-lanterns are pumpkins, we cannot avoid putting all these vegetables into waste. Halloween is a major occasion in the US and out of the 2 billion pounds that are grown in the US every year, around 1.3 billion pounds of these pumpkins are simply thrown away after the Halloween celebration. It’s understandable as it serves as an ornament, but still, the number is just a bit shocking. This is one of those jack-o’-lantern facts that will make us wonder how we can turn this wastage into something useful.

Coronavirus will not stop jack-o'-lantern carvings this year.  

Halloween jack-o'-lantern, pumpkin, jack-o'-lantern with face mask
Image from Adobe Stock

Coronavirus is a game-changer in 2020. We have been through canceled trips, lockdowns, and health scares. It’s the scariest thing that the world faces. Despite all these, research shows that Americans will continue to celebrate Halloween and carve their jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins. According to the study, around 46% of the American population will still buy pumpkins and make homemade lanterns. That’s 2% more compared to the 44% participation of Americans last year. With that percentage, the projected cost for all these pumpkins is at a whopping $687. Truly, no pandemic can stop these jack-o’-lantern facts from being interesting!

Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins are pricier in 2020.

If you compare the cost of the jack-o’-lantern pumpkin between 2019 and 2020, the increase is at $0.14. That’s a $3.63% from $4.04 to $4.18. This increase resulted in a pricier charge from pumpkin carvers. Nevertheless, the supply for pumpkins in 2020 was still strong so those who would still like to decorate and make their own will not have a hard time procuring pumpkins to do so.

The Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns is an annual event.

The Old Westbury Gardens in New York holds a yearly event that became popularly known as the Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns. This is an event for the whole month of October where you can find thousands of pumpkin carving displays. Roughly 5,000 jack-o’-lanterns and other carvings light the way towards the garden’s historic premises. The trail will take you 45 minutes to finish and it’s about a half-mile long. Isn’t this one of those magical jack-o’-lantern facts today?

Jack-o'-lantern mushrooms are deadly.  

Due to its bright orange color, Omphalotus Olearius or jack-o’-lantern mushrooms are easy to identify. This is a poisonous mushroom variety and it should be avoided at all costs. Its toxic chemicals are poisonous to humans and may cause severe stomach problems, headaches, diarrhea, and vomiting. Make sure you look out for it as it grows in clumps on wood and its stem and gills are bright oranges that could change from a pale yellow to white.

You are free to be creative with your jack-o'-lanterns. 

halloween jack-o'-lanterns designs
Image from Adobe Stock

There’s always an option for you to put some style on your lanterns. Some households prefer getting theirs from professional pumpkin carvers. But if you’re up for the challenge, you can style and make one yourself! It’s cheaper and you can do it with your family. The best part of it all, you’d get to show your creative side by doing unconventional cuts and patterns for your pumpkins. It might be difficult at first but just imagine how proud you’d get once it’s all done and lighted up! This item in these jack-o’-lantern facts will definitely make us want to carve one this Halloween!

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