The Origin of Jack O’Lantern


The Irish are responsible for bringing the tradition of the Jack O’Lantern to America. It is the symbol that best represents Halloween. But the original Jack O’Lantern was not a pumpkin but was something else. If you want to know what it is, just keep on reading to find out.

The Legend

The legend of Jack O’Lantern goes back hundreds of years in Irish History. As the story goes, Stingy Jack was a disgraceful, old drunk who loved to play tricks on everyone: family, friends  and even the Devil. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up a tree. Once the Devil climbed up the tree, Stingy Jack immediately placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. The Devil was then unable to descend the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him that he will not take his soul when he died. After the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack then removed the crosses and let the Devil down.

Wandering in Darkness

Many years have passed and Jack finally died. He went to the gates of heaven and met Saint Peter who told him that he was too mean and cruel, and had led a disgraceful and worthless life on earth. He wasn’t allowed to enter heaven so he then went down to hell. But the Devil kept his promise (really?) and would not allow him to enter hell as well. Now Jack was afraid and had nowhere else to go but to wander about eternity in the darkness between heaven and hell. It was too dark so he asked the Devil how he could leave. From the flames of hell, the Devil threw him an ember to light his way. Jack saw a hollowed turnip and placed the ember inside. From that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a final resting place, lighting his way with his “Jack O’Lantern”.

On all Hallow’s eve (or Halloween as we know it), the Irish hollowed out turnips, gourds, potatoes, rutabagas and beets. They then placed a light inside to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O’Lanterns. In the 1800’s, waves of Irish immigrants came to America. These immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and were much easier to carve out. From then on, they used pumpkins for Jack O’Lanterns.


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