When it comes to Halloween celebrations, perhaps nothing is as ubiquitous as the carved pumpkins. Sure, we see bats, spider webs, skeletons, and a host of horror characters but no party or home decor is ever complete unless we have those Jack O’Lanterns.
But do you know the real story behind this iconic Halloween staple? Well apparently, it has a dark, twisted tale.
First and foremost, a Reader’s Digest article clarifies to us that no, Americans weren’t the first ones to carve pumpkings for Halloween. Based on history, the practice originated “from our European ancestors” and it was based on ancient Irish myth about “Stingy Jack.”
The feature reads:
According to folklore, Jack was a devious fellow who outsmarted the devil time and time again… Jack, the town drunk with a clever side, met the devil one fateful night. The duo shared a drink and, too cheap to pay for his booze, Jack convinced Satan to morph into a coin that he could use to pay for their beverages. As soon as he did, Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross. The devil was unable to change back into his original form, and Jack held him that way until Satan agreed not to take his soul. Sneaky! Next, the shifty swindler convinced the devil to climb up a tree to steal a piece of fruit. He quickly carved the sign of the cross into the tree bark. Again, the devil couldn’t come down until he agreed not to bother Jack for another 10 years.”
“Shortly after his meeting with the devil, Jack died. As legend goes, God would not accept Jack into heaven and sent him down to visit the devil in hell. But the devil kept his promise. He wouldn’t let Jack into hell, either, and imprisoned him to an even darker fate. The devil sent Jack into the dark night to roam the world for eternity, with only a coal to light his way. Jack lit the coal, put it in a hollowed-out turnip and has been drifting through the world, scaring children ever since. Townsfolk began to refer to this figure as “Jack of the lantern,” and shortly thereafter “Jack o’ lantern.” People began to carve their own lanterns out of turnips, beets, potatoes and eventually pumpkins in hopes of warding away any ghostly spirits.”
These days, the tradition has largely become considered as an American one. Aside from carving pumpkins, we also see little kids carrying plastic buckets bearing the shape and design of Jack O’Lantern as candy containers for trick-or-treating.
In case you’re curious, you might want to check out our past article about how an artist cardved insanely-detailed icons of pop culture on his Halloween pumpkins.
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