If by some chance (though it can hardly be imagined) you choose not to partake in the pagan revelry of late October, you might not be familiar with Jack O'Lanterns. Jack O'Lanterns are carved, hollowed-out pumpkins, specifically those with features that resemble a face. Typically, a candle is placed in the empty core of the pumpkin and then lit during the late evening.
While carving pumpkins into Jack O'Lanterns is a common Anglo-American tradition, many Halloween participants are not familiar with the activity's beginnings. The carving of vegetables into lanterns originated as a way of paying homage to a mythical man named Stingy Jack. According to legend, Stingy Jack tricked the devil and angered God, thereby banning himself from both heaven and hell. Consequently, Jack was doomed to walk the darkened earth for all eternity with nothing to light his way other than a coal burning inside of a carved turnip. Of course, pumpkins are much larger than turnips and so are more suitable for fashioning into lanterns. Poor Jack, however, probably would have gotten tired on his long walks if he had been lugging around a pumpkin.
Beyond its succession to larger (and arguably more delicious) fruits/vegetables, the tradition of carving Jack O'Lanterns has taken a few other interesting turns. For example, Halloween enthusiasts have taken to carving a variety of images into pumpkins. While they may not be the frightening likenesses of Stingy Jack, these varied designs still tend to be a bit spooky. The ubiquitous image of a witch soaring over the moon on a broomstick is a good example of something you might see carefully carved into a pumpkin if you were to take an after-dark stroll on the 31st of October.
And of course, nowadays you really don't need a real pumpkin at all. You can get all kinds of Jack O'Lantern themed decorations, everything from die-cuts to flags for your doorway. My favorite decorations are often the vintage Jack O'Lanterns that you can find on sites like Ebay. Many of them are either vintage Halloween die-cuts or they are blow mold decorations, which are basically big plastic pumpkins.
For those sticking to the traditional carving of real pumpkins, another byproduct of Halloween pumpkin carving are scores upon scores of roasted pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin carvers, if they are savvy enough, are sure to save the seeds that are removed from a pumpkin's core. If the seeds are then roasted with a bit of salt and olive oil, they make a wonderfully tasty treat to sit back and enjoy while watching a brand-new Jack O'Lantern make lights in the autumn nights.