Halloween is never complete without jack-o’-lanterns staring with their creepy yet cheery smiles. Despite being a signature Halloween item, many people don't know the numerous evolutionary changes the lanterns have gone through to become what they are now. In this article, we briefly explore the legendary journey of the jack-o'-lanterns to becoming an important part of Halloween.
According to Cindy Ott, author of “Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon,” Americans have been using the pumpkin to maintain their connection to nature. She also wrote about how small farms and rural communities have benefited from the fame of pumpkins.
Ott stated that Halloween started in the 1920s before becoming more popular with post-world-war-II suburbanization and the baby boom. During Halloween, people would use jack-o’-lanterns as decorations to greet kids who came around for treats in their various costumes.
These days, Halloween still retains its theme of death and the supernatural, but the ghouls represented are presented as meek and benevolent as far as historical standards go. Long before, pumpkins were worn on scarecrows to effect a threatening look in honor of Halloween.
Things have changed since then, and Jack-o’-lanterns with other Halloween monsters are now being used in kid cartoons like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Greeting cards and books usually present the jack-o’-lantern with giant eyes and a grin rather than a threatening visage.
The modern jack-o’-lantern has no body to speak of, and Ott believes that this was a deliberate attempt to nullify its danger. After all, without a body, a jack-o’-lantern can not move around to cause any sort of havoc.
This change was majorly prompted by a popular belief in the healing power of nature. There have been many kid books where the pumpkin wrought heroic feats, and this has slowly but surely created a more positive outlook on their styling as Halloween decor.
The link between pumpkins and kids can be traced as far back as the mid-nineteenth century and remains as strong as ever. This is because both pumpkins and kids reinforce themes like natural cheerfulness and goodness.
There are many books written for kids about good jack-o’-lanterns that help kids, and there are also many pictures of kids posing around them on the internet. This shows exactly how much the roles of the pumpkin have changed, and everyone, including the kids, doesn’t mind.