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Check the Claim: Were the first Jack-o’-lanterns made using turnips?

SKILL: Check the Claim


SUBJECT(S): Pop Culture, History

Students will use a keyword search to confirm that the first creepy Jack-o’-lanterns were made in Ireland out of turnips.


Halloween, a contraction of “All Hallows Eve,” is a celebration observed in many countries on October 31st, the night before the Christian feast All Saints’ (or All Hallows’) Day. While the origin of Halloween is debated, many customs, such as wearing masks and disguises, can be linked to the Samhain festival observed by the Celtic peoples of ancient Britain and Ireland.

About the Example

Note: If you can’t access TikTok at your school, you can access the video clip here, hosted on the CTRL-F YouTube channel. 

This TikTok video from creator History By Lynny claims that the original Halloween Jack-o’-lantern was a turnip, not a pumpkin. It claims that the tradition originated in Ireland and was inspired by the legend of a man named Jack. As the story goes, Jack was rejected from both heaven and hell, and roamed the earth as a ghost with a turnip lamp gifted to him by the devil. On Hallow’s Eve, people in Ireland carved turnips to keep spirits away. When people from Ireland arrived in America they used pumpkins for this tradition instead.

Although the TikTok account has “history” in the name, it’s hard to determine the creator’s credentials or if they review the information they share. We can, however, use a Google keyword search (“turnip halloween”) to see if other sources can confirm History By Lynny’s claims.

A quick search will bring up various articles by Smithsonian Magazine, The Guardian, and The Irish Times that not only confirm the story, but give us more information about the “root” of this “hallowed” tradition.


  1. Show students the TikTok video, and have them summarize the primary claim (that Jack-o’-lanterns were first made from turnips) as well as the story behind this claim. Fill in any gaps in their knowledge about Halloween. 
  2. Have students use a Google keyword search using words from the video (“turnip halloween”) to see if higher-quality sources have covered this story. 
  3. Have students click on the link for Smithsonian Magazine. If students are uncertain about the Smithsonian Magazine’s reputation, have them investigate the source using Wikipedia.

Guiding Questions:

  1. Are the main claims in this TikTok video mostly true, mostly false, or somewhere in between? Explain your reasoning.
  2. How does the Smithsonian’s coverage differ from the TikTok creator’s coverage of the story?

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