History of the Jack of the Latern
are carved into Jack O’Lanterns for Halloween. We bake them into pumpkin pie.
Tales of terror have used pumpkins to create an eerie atmosphere. How did the
pumpkin become associated with Halloween? Well, the answer is in the tale of an
unfortunate soul named Jack.
According to Irish
folklore, a man named Jack, well known for his drunkenness and quick temper,
got very drunk at a local pub on All Hallows Eve. As his life began to slip
away the Devil appeared to claim Jack’s soul. Jack, eager to stay alive, begged
the Devil to let him have just one more drink before he died. The Devil agreed.
Jack was short of money and asked the Devil if he wouldn’t mind assuming the
shape of a sixpence so Jack could pay for the drink and after the transaction
the Devil could change back.
Seeing how the Devil
is quite gullible in almost all of these folk tales, he agreed again to help
Jack out and changed himself into a sixpence. Jack immediately grabbed the coin
and shoved it into his wallet which just happened to have a cross-shaped catch
on it. The Devil, now imprisoned in the wallet screamed with rage and ordered
Jack to release him.
Jack agreed to free the
Devil from his wallet if the Devil agreed not to bother Jack for a whole year.
Again, the Devil agreed to Jack’s terms. Realizing he now had a new lease on
life, at least for a year, Jack decided to mend his ways. For a time Jack was
good to his wife and children and began to attend church and give to charity.
Eventually, Jack slipped back into his evil ways.
next All Hallows Eve as Jack was heading home the Devil appeared and demanded
that Jack accompany him. Once again Jack, not too eager to die, distracted the
devil by pointing to a nearby apple tree. Jack convinced the Devil to get an
apple out of the tree and even offered to hoist the Devil up on his shoulders
to help him get the apple. The Devil, fooled once again by Jack, climbed into
the tree and plucked an apple. Jack took out a knife and carved a cross into
the trunk of the tree. Trapped once again the Devil howled to be released and
told Jack he would give him ten years of peace in exchange for his release.
Jack, on the other hand, insisted the Devil never bother him again. The Devil
agreed and was released.
Almost a year later
Jack’s body, unable to withstand his evil ways, gave out and Jack died. When
Jack tried to enter Heaven he was told that because of his meanness he would
not be allowed in. When Jack attempted to gain entry into Hell, the Devil,
still smarting from years of humiliation, refused Jack admission. However,
being the kind Devil that he was, he threw Jack a piece of coal to help him
find his way in the dark of limbo. Jack put the piece of coal into a turnip and
it became known as a Jack O’Lantern. On All Hallows Eve if you look you can
still see Jack’s flame burning dimly as he searches for a home.
You might be asking yourself, “Hmmm, that was an
interesting story, but where do the pumpkins fit into this?” The use of Jack
O’Lanterns as festival lights for Halloween is a custom that descended from the
Irish, who used carved-out turnips or beets as lanterns. On Halloween, these
lights represented the souls of the dead or goblins freed from the dead. When
the Irish emigrated to America they could not find many turnips to carve into
Jack O’Lanterns but they did find an abundance of pumpkins. Pumpkins seemed to
be a suitable substitute for the turnips, and have been an essential part of
Halloween celebrations ever since.