One of my favorite things about Halloween is coming home to a porch illuminated by glowing jack-o-lanterns on dark, rainy nights. I can think of few things that are so cheerful and spooky at the same time. Perhaps this ambiance has something to do with their history. Jack-o-lanterns have been around for quite some time, and are named after a phenomenon of strange lights flickering over peat bogs, also referred to as will-o'-the-wisp.
The custom originated in Ireland where turnips and beets were carved into lanterns on Halloween to protect homes from the undead and ward off vampires.
The folklore of the jack-o-lantern has many variations across Europe, one of the most notable being the old Irish folktale of Stingy Jack, a blacksmith who outsmarts the Devil from stealing his soul, but is barred from both Heaven and Hell. With nowhere to go, he creates a turnip lantern with an ember from the flames of Hades tossed to him by the Devil and wanders the earth forever looking for a resting place.
May your jack-o-lanterns burn bright tonight and light your way home!