Jack O’ Lanterns are a fun Halloween tradition where kids and adults alike carve and decorate pumpkins for the Halloween season. But just where did the idea of Jack O’ Lanterns come from?

It all started with an Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack. According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil over for a drink. Being true to his name, Stingy Jack did not want to pay so he tricked the Devil into turning into a coin so he may pay for the drinks that way. The Devil complied,

but Jack decided to keep the money and put it in his pocket with his other silver coins. This prevented the Devil from changing himself back. Jack made a deal with the devil that he would free the Devil if he did not bother Jack for one year, and if Jack should die during that time, the Devil would not claim his soul. The Devil agreed and Jack freed him. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing a tree to get some fruits. Whilst the Devil was up in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree so the Devil couldn’t come down unless he promised not to bother Jack for the next ten years and not to claim his soul if he should die during that time. The Devil agreed but soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God did not want someone as unsavory as Jack in Heaven, so he turned him away. The Devil, true to his word, would not claim Jack’s soul for Hell, but upset by the tricks Jack played on him, the Devil sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern” which was then simplified to “Jack O’Lantern.”

In Ireland and Scotland, people made their own versions of this story by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to scare away Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits. When immigrants from these countries came to the Americas, with them they brought the Jack o’ lantern tradition and they soon found out that pumpkins, a native fruit to America, make perfect Jack o’ lanterns.

So go out and get a pumpkin. Decorate or carve it for the fun of it but remember, Stingy Jack roams the Earth to this day. Maybe a Jack o’ lantern or two can keep you safe from harm this dark Halloween night.

- April -


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