Monday, December 12, 2011

The object of the day: 19th century Jack-O'-Lantern

The Irish traditional Jack-O'-Lantern made from a turnip in the early 19th century (photographed at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.)

While turnips have always been used in Ireland, lanterns in Scotland were originally fashioned from the thick stem of a cabbage plant, and were called "kail-runt torches". It was not until 1837 that jack-o'-lantern appeared as a term for a carved vegetable lantern... The term "Jack-O'-Lantern" originally meant a night watchman, or man with a lantern, with the earliest known use in the 1660s in East Anglia; and later, meaning an ignis fatuus or will-o'-the-wisp.

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