A jack-o'-lantern is typically a carved pumpkin. It is associated chiefly with the holiday of Halloween and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus or jack-o'-lantern. In a jack-o'-lantern, typically the top is cut off, and the inside flesh then scooped out; an image, usually a monstrous face, is carved onto the outside surface, and the lid replaced. It is typically seen during Halloween.
Sections of the pumpkin are cut out to make holes, often depicting a face, which may be either cheerful, scary, or comical. More complex carvings are becoming more commonly seen. Popular figures, symbols, and logos are some that can now be seen used on pumpkins. A variety of tools can be used to carve and hollow out the gourd, ranging from simple knives and spoons to specialized instruments, typically sold in holiday sections of North American grocery stores. Printed stencils can be used as a guide for increasingly complex designs. After carving, a light source (traditionally a candle) is placed inside the pumpkin and the top is put back into place. The light is normally inserted to illuminate the design from the inside and add an extra measure of spookiness. Sometimes a chimney is carved, too. It is possible to create surprisingly artistic designs, be they simple or intricate in nature.
The tradition of carving a lantern started in Scotland and Ireland where it was traditionally carved from a turnip, and in England where a beet was used. They were created on All Hallows' Eve and left on the door step to ward off evil spirits. An offering or, as we now know it, a "treat", would also be commonly left to placate roaming sprites and evil spirits — otherwise they might 'fiddle' with property or livestock (play a "trick"). Once the tradition moved to the US, it was adapted to the carving of a pumpkin as these vegetables were more readily available, bigger and easier to carve.
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