The origin of the angry orange pumpkin (or jack-o’-Lantern) comes from a Celtic folk tale of a miserly farmer named Jack who constantly played tricks on the devil. His nickname was literally “Stingy Jack.”
According to History.com, for one of his tricks, Stingy Jack invited the devil to join him for a drink. Once they were together, he pretended not to have any money to pay for his beverage and convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin they could use to buy the drinks.
The devil did so, but instead of paying for the drinks, Jack kept the coin in his pocket, where he also kept his silver cross.
This, he believed, prevented the devil from returning to his original form.
But eventually, after performing multiple tricks on the devil, Jack died. Legend says God wouldn’t let a man like him into heaven. And the devil, unsurprisingly angry with Jack and his cons, wouldn’t let him into hell, either.
Instead, the devil sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light the way, History.com reported. Jack put the burning coal into “a carved-out turnip” and has been roaming the planet since.
Irishmen began to refer to Stingy Jack as “Jack of the Lantern” and later, “Jack O’Lantern.”
Throughout Europe, Englishmen used large beets or turnips or even potatoes to create the lanterns. When immigrants came to America, pumpkins were adopted.
Today, the jack-o’-lantern in pumpkin form is a staple in Halloween decor.