Surprisingly, the first Jack O’Lanterns were not made from Pumpkins. The spooky faces were carved by the Irish from turnips and potatoes. Their legend is of an Irishman so stingy, he was “kept out of Heaven,” and so mischievous, the Devil wouldn’t admit him to Hell. He was condemned to wander the earth with a lighted lantern until Judgment Day.
It was not until the 1940′s after many Irish immigrants arrived, that Halloween as we know it was celebrated throughout the United States. Our Halloween combines elements from ancient festivals: Druid, Roman and Christian.
Source: The New Pumpkin Book, Mary Bettencourt, Cookbook Chairman 1981, Half Moon Bay Main Street Committee for Beautification 1975, 1981