Halloween just wouldn’t be the same without the Jack-o’-Lantern. Carving funny or ghoulish faces into pumpkins is a long-practiced tradition that delights both kids and adults, but have you ever wondered how this seemingly strange tradition came to be?
Well, like many traditions, it begins with folklore. In the case of the Jack-o’-Lantern, we have to go back centuries to the Irish folktale of Stingy Jack. A spooky tale not for the faint of heart, Stingy Jack begins with a little trickery . . .
One cold night, a drunkard by the name of Stingy Jack invited the Devil out for a drink. Jack, being the swindler that he was, had no intentions on paying his tab. Instead, Jack convinced the Devil that he should turn himself into a coin. Once the tab was paid, he could simply turn himself back.
Agreeing, the Devil transformed into a coin. But little did the Devil know it was all a rouse. See, old Stingy Jack had a plan up his sleeve. Rather than paying up, he stuck the coin into his pocket. And what was next to that coin? A crucifix. The Devil was trapped, but not for long.
Jack agreed to let the Devil out if he would leave him alone for ten years. The Devil agreed.
The years went by and the two crossed paths again. Jack knew the Devil had come for him. Trying to avoid his fate, Jack asked the Devil if he would pluck an apple from a tree to feed him before he went. In agreement, he climbed up in the tree, and as he did Jack carved in it a crucifix.
Trapped again, Jack said he would let the Devil down only if he would spare his eternal soul. Once again, the Devil agreed.
Upon Stingy Jack’s death, his unsavory actions prevented him from entering the gates of Heaven. Being barred from Hell, he was stuck.
With nowhere to go, the Devil gave Jack an ember to light his way. He placed that ember inside a carved turnip, and to this day continues to roam between the living and the dead.
The Irish continued the tradition of “Jack of the Lantern” by carving into turnips and other root vegetables. They would place their carvings on the doorstep in order to ward off evil spirits. When they migrated to America, their tradition went with them. Finding pumpkins in abundance and ideal for carving, the pumpkin Jack-O’-Lantern was born.
When you are carving your pumpkins or turnips this fall, remember the story of Stingy Jack. Or maybe carve him into a pumpkin!
Take a look at these wicked pumpkin carving ideas and join in on the Halloween fun!