Halloween Countdown with Molly Weir: Day 9

Oct. 9
This morning I was brainstorming ideas of interesting articles for my countdown and I realized that many people do not know the history of Halloween. There are practices and traditions that have been used in the past that we still use today, only we changed it up a little bit. This article will focus on the tradition of the jack-o’-lantern and how it has changed over the years.

The first known tradition of the jack-o’-lantern has been traced back to Ireland. They carved pumpkins in hopes of protecting themselves from the soul of Stingy Jack. The story of Stingy Jack is very interesting because when he was alive he was known as a trickster and would play jokes on everyone, including the devil. It is told that one day, Jack tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree. When the devil followed his instructions, Jack took the ladder and ran, leaving the devil stuck in the tree. Jack wanted the devil to promise that if he let him down, to not take his soul when he died. The devil agreed and was let down. 

Many years later, Jack died. When he entered the gates of Heaven, an Angel said that Jack was a mean and miserable person and was not allowed to enter. Jack, horribly upset, went to Hell in search of a place to go. When he arrived, the devil kept his promise and did not let Jack in. Jack was left with nowhere to go and was beyond scared. The devil felt bad so he gave Jack an ember from the flames of hell to give him a little bit of light on his endless journey, and a turnip because that was Jack’s favorite food. With the turnip and ember in his hands, he decided that he would carve the turnip and put the ember inside, making his own lantern. This was the first-ever “jack-o’-lantern”.

Every year, people all over the world carve pumpkins without knowing the meaning behind it. When carving your next pumpkin, think about how this jack-o’-lantern will protect you from the trickster soul of Stingy Jack. 

Have a spooky day!

Photo of “traditional Irish jack-o’-lantern” (carved from a turnip) courtesy of Museum of Country Life, Ireland

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