History of Jack O’ Lanterns

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By Sam Torres

During Halloween, bright, beautifully carved pumpkins fill the streets and outline homes. These Halloween decorations are known as Jack O’ Lanterns. Jack O’ Lanterns are a common Halloween tradition here in the Americas and many other European countries. Jack O’ Lanterns date back centuries to Ireland, the real question, though, is why?

According to www.History.com, Jack O’ Lanterns originated from an Irish folktale about a man named “Stingy Jack”. The story says, Jack invited the Devil for a drink. After they finished with their drinks, Jack found a way for them to ‘pay’ without really paying. He convinced to get the Devil to turn into a coin, to buy the drinks. Once the Devil turned into a coin, Jack threw the coin into his pocket next to a cross, which prevented the Devil from turning back into his true form. Jack asked for one year without the Devil bothering him and if he were to die the Devil could not take his soul. Time passed, Jack again tricked the Devil. He persuaded the Devil to climb a tree to pick a fruit. As the Devil was up there, Jack carved a cross in the bottom of the tree. He trapped the Devil and forced him to leave him alone for another ten years. Soon after, Jack died. His soul would not be allowed in Heaven for his unholy acts and the Devil kept his word and would not accept his soul in Hell. He was sent to roam the dark, cold world with only a burning coal in hand, to light his path. Jack left the coal in a carved turnip and left. The legend says that to this day Jack’s evil spirit still roams the world.

In Ireland and Scotland, families began to place carved turnips and potatoes to ward off any evil spirits, including Jack. The custom developed. When the America’s were discovered, people found the perfect item for carving, the pumpkin. Pumpkins were huge, easy to carve, and gave the Jack O’ Lantern a bright, new look.

Ever since the pumpkins were found, all over America Jack O’ Lanterns became a well-known practice. Still, in some European countries people use turnips and potatoes, as they were before. The history of Jack O’ Lanterns are amazing and it’s incredible that people all around the world still celebrate this custom.

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