Stingy Jack and Jack O' Lanterns

Carving pumpkins is one of the best things about Halloween. You choose a really artistic design or make a silly face, carve it in a pumpkin, and leave it on the porch to add to the Halloween decorations. The tale behind the fun activity, however, has quite a unique origin.

The story comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. As the legend tells, Stingy Jack wanted to have a drink with the Devil. They got a drink together, but Stingy Jack asked the Devil to turn into a coin to use to pay for the drinks. However, there was a silver cross in his pocket that forced the Devil to remain a coin. Eventually, Jack let the Devil go only if the Devil would leave him alone for a year and wouldn’t claim Jack’s soul if he died. The Devil agreed and left Jack alone until the following year. The next year came, and Stingy Jack tricked the Devil again by asking him to get fruit from high up in a tree. The tree had a cross carved in it that wouldn’t let him down, and Stingy Jack made the Devil promise to leave him alone for another ten years. During those ten years, Jack died. Legend says that while the Devil couldn’t claim his soul because of his promise, God wouldn’t let Stingy Jack into heaven either due to his unpleasant soul. The Devil sent Jack away with only a burning coal to light his path, which he put in a carved-out turnip. The Irish then referred to the ghost as “Jack of the Lantern,” which eventually evolved into “Jack O’Lantern.”

The Irish and Scotts invented different versions of the lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips, potatoes, and other foods in hopes of keeping Stingy Jack away. As people from that region migrated to the United States, they discovered the pumpkin was the perfect food to make Jack O’Lanterns. So, whether you carve a scary face, ghost, cat, or even a superhero into your pumpkin, just remember you’re keeping Stingy Jack from coming into your home.

Source: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history