Jack O’ Lantern superstition, the tale of Stingy Jack
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By Carissa Sitki
It’s October, you purchase your pumpkins, let them sit on the porch for a few weeks, and, once it’s close enough to Halloween, you carve faces and pictures into those bad boys. Why? Who knows. It’s what we’ve always done, it’s what our parents did, and what our children do, and what their children will do as well.
I’m sure I can speak for many when I say that I’ve never asked why so many of us follow such an, otherwise odd, tradition. Carving a face into a squash? Yeah, that’s definitely odd.
After a smidge of research, I discovered that this tradition possibly originates from the Irish myth of Stingy Jack. Legend has it that Jack attempted to trick the Devil by convincing him to turn into a coin to pay for his drink at a bar. Once the Devil was a coin, Jack placed him into his pocket, along with a crucifix. Jack agreed to release Satan, on the condition that he would spare his soul from eternal damnation. Satan agreed, but needless to say, this move did not bode well for old Jack.
When his time came to pass from this life, Jack was barred from both Heaven and Hell. His poor soul was sentenced to wander the earth for the rest of eternity with nothing but a single burning coal that was given to him by the Devil to light his way. Jack fashioned a makeshift lantern by placing the coal into a carved out turnip and set off on his endless journey.
The Irish folk began referring to Jack as Jack of the Lantern. Sound familiar? Yes, our modern Jack O’ Lantern was based off of this Stingy Jack fellow, but where do the pumpkins come into the story?
Well, the Irish folks began carving their own turnip lanterns- giving them scary faces and placing them near their homes- to ward off Stingy Jack’s spirit. When they came to America, they brought their tradition along with them and found that the pumpkin- native to this new world- was perfect for carving into Jack O’ Lanterns.
This year, as you carve those pumpkins, rest assured knowing that old Stingy Jack and his eerie turnip lantern will stay far away from your home. Happy Halloween!