Every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world.Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating ”jack-o-lanterns”—the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack—originated in Ireland,where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America,home of the pumpkin and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.
The Legend of ”Stingy Jack”
People have been making jack-o-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practise originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed as ”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 in 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 that he would not bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes,God would not allow such an unsavoury figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick that 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 it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as ”Jack of the Lantern”, and then simply as ”Jack O’Lantern”
In Ireland and Scotland,people began making their own versions of Jacks lantern by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and any other wandering evil spirits. In England large beets were used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack-o-lantern tradition with them when they settled in the United States. They soon found that pumpkins,a fruit native to America make perfect jack-o-lanterns. Since pumpkins are now widely available elsewhere and in the UK , pumpkins are now universally adopted for the purpose.
I WOULD URGE ALL ADULTS AND PARENTS TO MAKE SURE THEIR YOUNGSTERS CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN SAFELY…REMEMBER ‘JACK O’LANTERNS’ WITH LIT CANDLES ARE DANGEROUS AROUND HIGHLY FLAMMABLE HALLOWEEN COSTUMES…… AND ACCOMPANY THE YOUNGER ONES WHEN THEY GO KNOCKING ON STRANGER’S DOORS….NOT ALL ADULTS ARE ‘NICE’ PEOPLE!
And for those who are about to regale me with comments about Halloween being ‘of the devil’ ,and how it is all Paganism and not Christian….. remember too that practically every feast day in the liturgical calendar stems back to the ‘old religions’ including Christmas and it’s various rituals.
Those origins are lost in the mists of time and bear little or no significance in today’s world …. don’t be such killjoys,lighten up, and leave the kids have some fun!!!