Do you carve a pumpkin on Halloween? Do you make it good and ghoulishly scary and put it on your porch or doorstep to “welcome” trick or treaters? Maybe you put a candle inside? Did you ever wonder why or where this Halloween tradition originated?
Well, carved pumpkins, or Jack O’ Lanterns, are an old Halloween tradition – very old...centuries old as a matter of fact. And, interestingly, the name and practice was brought to America from Ireland (where they didn’t have pumpkins but carved large potatoes and turnips. But, for heaven’s sake, why?
Well, here is where the legend comes in...the Legend of “Stingy Jack”...
“According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks.
Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul.
The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way.
Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern”, and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern”."
In Scotland and Ireland, frightening faces were carved out of potatoes and turnips, lit and left out to scare off Stingy Jack. Upon coming to America, the tradition remained and they soon discovered that pumpkins were even more perfect for carving.
So, be sure that your Jack O’Lantern is ready for Halloween so that Stingy Jack won’t come trick or treating at your door!
Sources: “History of the Jack O' Lantern,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/topics/jack-olantern-history
Photo credits: freedigitalphotos.net
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