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The Celtic Roots of Jack O' Lanterns

Updated: Mar 11

Seàn m na gaelaí – Sean of the Lights in Irish Gaelic – is the origin of the Jack O’Lantern. In old Ireland, for hundreds of years, the Jack O’Lantern was carved out of the largest, toughest turnips! These made small, frightening ghoulish faces, just the right size for a candle stub, fitting neatly in the hand of trick-or-treaters. In New England, Irish immigrants found that field pumpkins, ripe just in time for Halloween, were easy to carve into a New World version of Seàn m na gaelaí – perfect for keeping away the devils haunting the crossroads and paths wandering the deep woods and rocky shores of a land that must have looked like a primeval version of the Ireland they had left behind.

The iron pub sign at the Lantern Jack pub featured in Lantern Jack—a title in my Celtic Magic series from Changeling Press—nods to the Jack O’Lantern’s ancient roots, with a picture of a carved turnip, rather than the American pumpkin.

—Siondalin O'Craig

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