Fun Facts about Jack O’Lanterns
The American Jack O’Lantern started from the Irish and Scottish tradition carving turnips into lanterns to ward off any bad spirits roaming around on All Hallows’ Eve. When the Irish immigrated to the United States the tradition continued, only with pumpkins. Since they were more readily available and the carving was much easier than turnips, a new variation of the All Hallows’ Eve lantern began. But, a lit pumpkin became a tradition of the end of the harvest season long before it was associated with Halloween.
Folklore surrounding the Jack O’Lantern stems from tales from Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland. The tales start with a thieving farmer known as Stingy Jack, who outwits the Devil. There are two accounts to the story.
Devil Up The Apple Tree
While talking with the Devil, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree. When the Devil was up in the apple tree, Stingy Jack nailed (or carved) crosses around the trunk of the tree. Now, the Devil was unable to climb out of the tree, so Jack made a deal with the Devil that once he died, the Devil would not take his soul. The Devil agreed and the crosses (or bark) were removed and the Devil went back to Hell.
Devil and the Villagers
In this version, Jack stole from some villagers and a chase ensued. Along the way, he met the Devil who informed Jack his time to die had come. Jack, never one to give up, made a deal with the Devil by advising him of a way to bedevil the villagers that were chasing Jack. Since the Devil can turn into any shape he desires, Jack came up with a plan for the Devil to turn into a coin. Jack would pay for the things that he stole. The Devil, then, could return to his true shape. The coin would be gone and the villagers would fight over who had stolen the coin. The Devil though this was a terrific plan, and agreed. After the Devil took the shape of the silver coin, Jack placed the coin in his wallet and closed it up tightly.. The Devil found himself next to a cross which stripped him of his powers; and so he was trapped. Only after the Devil agreed to not take Stingy Jack’s soul, was the Devil released.
When Jack does finally die, he tries to go to Heaven, but is found too wicked. He then traveled to Hell, but and the Devil agreed not to take his soul, he cannot enter Hell. The Devil advised Jack to go back to where he came from. Jack complained of darkness and the Devil thew an ember to him from the fires of hell. Since the ember can never burn out, Jack carved out a turnip and placed the ember into the makeshift lantern. Jack is forever damned to travel the Earth carrying his lantern. He became known as Jack of the Lantern, and then Jack O’Lantern.
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