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Saturday, January 31, 2015

The face of Halloween.

Far from an activity for children to do with their parents during October for Halloween, the original Jack-o-Lanterns, of the Irish myth, were actually quite terrifying looking and I can’t imagine children would have want to come close to any of them. This essential Halloween decoration item has a purpose and a story behind it.

They were carved from turnips or beets rather than festive orange pumpkins, and were intended to ward off unwanted visitors; spirits, goblins and demons. When the Irish and Scots emigrated to America, bringing the tradition along, they found that pumpkins, native to America, made perfect fruits for carving. Pumpkin Jack-o-Lanterns have been an integral part of Halloween festivities ever since.

The name “Jack O’ Lantern” was originally one of the numerous names given to ignis fatuus (Medieval Latin for “foolish fire”), another of which is “Will O’ the Wisps”, basically the odd light that can occasionally be seen over marshes, swamps, and the like.  “Jack O’ Lantern” first popped up being used this way around the mid-17th century in East Anglia, UK and spread from there through parts of England, Ireland, and Scotland.

Also this name could originally derive from the practice of calling men generically “Dick, Jack, Tom, etc.”  In particular, men who were lower class, were often called generically “Jack” beginning around the 14th century in England. (This practice popped up again in the late 19th century in the United States where “Jack” was used for the name for a man where his real name is unknown).  Thus, when you see someone carrying a lantern in a distance at night that you see is a man, but you can’t make out who exactly it is, he is literally “man with a lantern”, a.k.a. “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack O’ Lantern”. 

The truth is that the jack o’ lanterns and pumpkin carving are probably going to be around for a long time, at least that is what I hope so. I could not imagine a Halloween season without this mysterious folks.

Even though the pumpkin is a simple vegetable, carved with a scary face and that alone makes it trick and it’s a perfect decoration for a spooky night; nowadays it is more commercialized in different ways. Just like masks changed from scary to sophisticated and expensive. The pumpkin has changed.

Before, the image of the jack o’ lantern alone was commercialized in cards, masks, plates and different decorations items. Today, the pumpkin itself has suffered a major transformation.  Apparently to get the attention of the new generation, new stencils with images of Disney characters, Movie characters, Music Idols were created to carve on pumpkins. We can also count with light and sound effects.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about this cool new designs, there are very creative people out there BUT I just hope kids learn first to carve the original face of our beloved jack so this tradition won’t disappear completely. But the question is: the Jack -o-Lanter face,will it disappear? 

Carved Pumpkins Back Then:

Carved Pumkins Today:

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