By now Halloween is well underway: Some homes are already fully decked out for the big night, the candy is on sale and the pumpkins are waiting to be carved into all sorts of artistic, clever, funny and spooky Jack O’ Lanterns. The Jack O’ Lantern has its origins in Ireland where faces were carved on to potatoes and turnips. The name “Jack” is attributed to their folk tales about “Stingy Jack”. When the Irish came over to America, they brought their tradition with them. Here, they were introduced to pumpkins and made them their canvas of choice.
I was recently introduced to a different style of lantern by Stephanie Griffin who took over my position at the Macedonian Patriotic Organization a few months ago.
Steph has always loved art and crafting. Her great-grandma Gholson had a great influence on her by teaching her how to crochet and make yarn coat hanger covers when she was about 9 years old. Since then, she has added sewing, cross stitching, furniture refurbishing, painting, interior decorating and working on miniature dollhouse rooms to her favorite crafts list.
One day Steph was online looking for something to make for her parents as her grandma and grandpa had passed away and she wanted to create something special in their memory. She saw someone had taken a lantern and put a chair with a tealight in the chair and a Christmas tree in the corner. She decided to create one a bit more elaborate in 1:12 scale. Steph took extra dollhouse furniture and went to work. According to Steph, “I wanted to use specific items to go with my grandparents’ style of how they decorated that would bring back memories of them. I placed a Christmas package in the chair and for lighting I used fairy lights and installed them on the top of the lantern. It looked like a miniature room on Christmas Day. My mom cried when she and dad opened it that Christmas morning. They told their friends about their special gift, and they came over to see it and would ask me to customize one for them.”
Since her first lantern, Steph has branched out to create special occasion lanterns too. It is important to her to learn about the person, their decorating style and their favorite activities. One lady was moving and had to sell her large dollhouse. Steph took her favorite items from it and incorporated them into her lantern. A teacher’s father, a lifelong farmer, was memorialized with farmhouse décor.
The most special lantern Steph has made to date was the one for a recent graduate. Steph recalls, “It took time to put it together and make it very specific and special for her. She loves Harry Potter, and I found a 1:12 Harry Potter collection of books. She was a Girl Scout and loved to play cards, so I incorporated them, her family picture, and a University of Ohio State picture into her lantern too. It was a lot of work but very satisfying as she was so happy when she received it.”
Steph feels fulfilled when she touches others whether with a unique memory lantern to let them know their loved ones are still near or to celebrate an accomplishment or a milestone. She has written a poem that hangs on the inside of the memory lantern doors. It reads, “Loved ones in heaven What do they do? They come down to earth To spend time with you. So, save them a seat Just one empty chair. You may not see them, but they will be there.”
This Halloween as your family gathers to decide what face to carve on the pumpkin, remember that Jack O’ Lanterns may light up the Hallows Eve night sky, but the next day All Saint’s Day/Dia de los Muertos, we remember and shine a light on those we hold dear who no longer walk the earth.