The Jack-O-Lantern is one of the most popular and symbolic token of Halloween celebration. Well, just like all other activities, the famous pumpkin lantern has a story too. So back in time…
The Jack-O-Lantern tradition in fact emerges from an Irish myth about a lazy yet cunning man named Stingy Jack. According to the story, Stingy Jack came across the devil in a pub whereby he invited him to have a drink. Stingy in nature, he convinced the devil to turn himself into a six pence coin in order to buy the drinks in exchange of his soul.
Once the devil changed his form, Jack kept the coin into his pocket next to a silver cross thus preventing the devil to change back to his original form. He was freed only after promising not to claim his soul for the next 10 years. Well this somehow always made me to think about the foolishness of the devil. The devil is claimed to be a very intelligent angel with scabbed wings. So let’s go one..
Ten years later, the devil came back to claim Jack’s soul but again he tricked the devil by asking him to first get him an apple from a tree. As soon as the devil was up on the tree, Jack carved the sign of a cross into the tree’s bark hence the devil unable to come down until he promised Jack never to claim his soul. Inspired from Adam and Eve apple? Well let’s call this one Adam and Eve The Vengeance. Lol!
Years later, when Jack died he went to Heaven where he was denied a place. Well, it’s a crime to fool the devil too apparently! He then proceeded towards Hell but the devil bound to his word could not allow him in. So he had nowhere to go except to wander and since it was really dark outside, the devil tossed Jack a burning coal from the flames of Hell in order to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the earth with ever since. The Irish refer to this ghostly figure as ‘Jack of the Lantern’ or simply ‘Jack O’Lantern.
The Irish people believed that spirits and ghosts could enter their world on Halloween. Hence, they carved scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placed them near windows or doors to keep Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits away. Later, immigrants discovered pumpkins, a fruit native to America, and it was easier and bigger to carve out and make perfect Jack-O-Lanterns.
So since then continued the tradition of wasting poor pumpkins for Halloween. That’s one of the most famous legends of Jack O Lantern but there are many others which derive from this one based on different countries and culture which celebrate Halloween nowadays.
Some common differences are mostly about who the Devil in this legend was and about the actual deal Jack made with the Devil. For example some versions of the legend say that the deal Jack made was a short term only and do not agree on the part where Jack was denied entry into hell due to the deal but was instead denied from Hell due to the vengeful act of Satan.
In some other legends, it’s God who gave Jack a turnip to light his way after being refused access to Hell.