Jack of All Faces



If you’re looking at today’s Jack-o’-lantern’s for a reminiscent reminder of the classic carvings from your childhood, the toothy grinned pumpkins with pyramid-shaped eyes and nose, you may have difficulties.  That’s because, for many pumpkin carving has taken on a whole new life, propelling it to the forefront as a serious seasonal art form. Equipped with power tools and sculpting instruments for delicate details, the art of pumpkin carving is no longer child’s play.

The origin of the jack-o’-lantern or ignis fatuus dates back to the 19th century where turnips or beats were used on the British Isles to celebrate the Gaelic festival of Samhain. Observed October 31 – November 1, the holiday was a time when fairies and spirits were believed to be active. Often with faces carved into them, the turnips may have been used to light pathways, represent spirits and otherworldly beings and/or protects oneself or home from them.

British immigrants brought the tradition with them to North American and the turnip was replaced with the larger and more readily available pumpkin. In the United States the carved pumpkin tradition was first adopted into the harvest season before finally finding its place among Halloween festivities. 


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