Folks have been carving “jack-o-lanterns” since the 1600’s. The custom of carving faces into turnips and beets is thought to have begun in ireland, and was inspired by the tale of “Jack of the Lantern”. According to Irish folklore, Jack was a sinful man who tricked and trapped the devil and then made a deal with him that if he let him go, the devil would not take his soul when he died. When he did die, Jack was not accepted into Heaven and since the devil had promised not to take his soul, Jack was stuck in purgatory. Searching eternally for a resting place, Jack’s spirit walked the earth, lighting his way with an ember from the fires of hell that he carried in a hollowed-out turnip.
The faces people carved into the vegetables represented the souls of purgatory, and were believed to protect the home against restful spirits if placed in a windowsill.