The story behind Jack O’ Lanterns

By Remy Cush

   Fall is here when the evenings get darker a little earlier, and grocery stores start filling up with Halloween candies and an array of pumpkins. They first appear in the vegetable and produce aisles, then they appear outside of stores with displays of yellow, purple, and burgundy mums for decoration. Some may wonder if it’s worth it to spend more than an hour scooping out pumpkin guts, and completely scoring a pumpkin to slightly resemble the desired design. 

The popular activity of making “Jack O’Lanterns” originated in an Irish myth, “Stingy Jack.”

   According to history.com, Stingy Jack had two encounters with the Devil, both ending with him catching him, and Jack asking him not to bother him, and to not claim his soul when he died. Jack was enough of an unpleasant, distasteful person that God wouldn’t allow him into Heaven after he died. Because of the agreements made between Jack and the Devil, he wouldn’t have perished in hell. As an alternate solution, the Devil sent him into the “dark night with only a burning coal to light his way.” Jack placed the coal into a hollowed-out turnip, beginning the Halloween custom of pumpkin carving. The story of “Stingy Jack” evolved over the years, and the Irish and Scottish began creating their own Jack O’Lanterns with potatoes or turnips, to ward away the evil spirit of Jack along with other mythical creatures of the night.

   This carving of root vegetables was brought to America by European immigrants, and quickly became popularized with the use of pumpkins, which grow on a vine like cucumbers, zucchini, and melons. This old Celtic tradition became a reliable Halloween staple in the United States, and continues to be a treasured practice to end the month of October. 


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