Folklore suggests that decorating for Halloween was supposed to ward off evil spirits. It’s also lots of fun, though now we use more than just potatoes, turnips, or pumpkins.
Halloween is the second most popular holiday in the United States (the first being Christmas). It’s really a mixture of a number of different traditions. It was influenced by Celtic harvest festival traditions, pagan roots and Gaelic roots, and Christianity. But, why do we decorate?
According to history.com, carving a pumpkin into a “Jack O’ Lantern” came from a Celtic folktale of a man called “Stingy Jack.” Stingy Jack had tricked the Devil (not once, but several times), and even got the Devil to promise not to claim Jack’s soul. When Jack finally died, God wouldn’t let him into Heaven, and the Devil wouldn’t take Jack to Hell. So, Jack was sent off on a dark night with a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and still roams the earth (particularly on Halloween) with his lit gourd. Jack was later called “Jack of the Lantern” and finally “Jack O’ Lantern.” The Irish tradition of carving potatoes and turnips eventually switched to carving pumpkins when it migrated to America.
So, decorating for Halloween is supposed to ward off evil spirits and trick the devil. It’s also lots of fun, though now we use more than just potatoes, turnips, or pumpkins.