Thursday, September 13, 2012

Origin of The Jack-O-Lantern

Have you ever wondered why people tend to display carved pumpkins during the Halloween season? If you really take a step back to think about the tradition, it seems a little random and perhaps odd to carve out a gourd for the sake of decoration. Like many traditions and legends, It's steeped in folklore and the supernatural. The origin of the Jack-O-Lantern comes from an Irish Folktale about "Stingy Jack," aka Jack of the Lantern (hence the name, Jack-O-Lantern).

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As the story goes, there was a man named Jack in Ireland who happened to be a drunkard and a trickster. One night (some say Hallow's Eve), he happened to meet the Devil at a pub. Jack and the Devil had some drinks. When it was time for last call, "Stingy Jack" lived up to his name by not wanting to pay for his alcohol. Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a sixpence to pay for the drinks...in exchange for Jack's soul, that was. When the Devil did so, Jack put the sixpence in his pocket along with his crucifix. At that point, the crucifix rendered the devil unable to morph back.  Jack offered to let the Devil go, but only if the Devil agreed not to claim his soul for ten years. After ten years, Jack ran into the Devil again. This time, he asked for an apple before his Journey into Hell. The Devil obliged, climbing into the apple tree nearby. To the Devil's surprise, Jack had laid crucifixes around the tree trunk, trapping him once more. Jack demanded his soul back in exchange for the devil's freedom. Frustrated, the Devil agreed. Jack lived a hard life, and he died soon after to no one's surprise. Upon Jack's arrival to heaven's gates, St. Peter refused him. He was turned back because of his stinginess and deceitfulness in life. Jack had no choice but to trek to the gates of hell. When he arrived, the devil refused him too. Jack, not knowing where else to go, desperately asked the devil for an ember to find his way through the darkness. The devil willingly gave Jack an ember, which he placed in a hollowed-out turnip. It is said that Jack still wanders with his turnip lantern, trying to find his way through the dark.

When Irish immigrants came over to America, they brought the tradition with them. Instead of using turnips, which were plentiful in Ireland, pumpkins became the designated lanterns. So, readers, as we carve our pumpkins this year, keep in mind that we are lighting the way for Jack's journey through the afterlife.

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8 comments:

  1. I shall light a lot of lanterns this year then. :P

    Halloween folklore is the best! Thanks for writing about it. :)

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  2. That is such a cool legend! I've never heard it before!

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    1. I only heard it a couple years ago myself. I thought it was pretty neat.

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  3. Well this is new! I've never heard this legend before. It's really interesting! I love folklore like this and now I have a story to tell my friends around Halloween :)

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    1. Awesome! I love telling stories, especially around the campfire.

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  4. Aha that's interesting!

    Much love: http://razzledazzleandrocknroll.blogspot.co.uk/ If you fancy a follow or a nosey. xx

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