Big orange grinning pumpkins with glowing eyes are one of the scariest symbols of Halloween that comes to mind, but it wasn’t always a pumpkin, and it wasn’t always just a fun nightlight to sit on your front porch. The Jack-O-Lantern has a history and a symbolism that is very spooky!
Irish legend has it that the Jack-O-Lantern was based on a folktale of Greedy Jack who was a trickster and a stingy sinner. Old Jack never paid his debts, returned a favor, or ever set up friends for a free drink at the local pub! One day Jack noticed that the devil was asleep in an apple tree, and he quickly came up with an idea…
He gathered crucifixes and holy water and put them all around the base of the tree so that when the devil woke up he would find himself trapped. Well, thats just what happened!
“What do you want?” The devil asked Stingy Jack, “I want you to grant me a wish!” Jack said, laughing at the devil. “I want you to not take my soul down to hell no matter how bad I am!” The clever Irishman said. “Done.” The devil agreed.
Years went by, and Stingy Jack died leaving chaos and debt behind him, finding himself at the pearly gates he asked St Peter if he could come in. “Not on your life! You are much too evil and you never did a good deed in the time you were allowed, go to the Devil and see if he wants you!” St Peter said. Poor Jack didn’t want to wander the earth for eternity as a lost soul, so reluctantly he went down into the pit of hell.
“What the hell are you doing here?” The Devil asked him.
“I’ve no other place to go!” Jack wailed, “Well you can’t stay here, I don’t want you either! Be gone!” The Devil roared.
“But I can’t see me hand in front of me face!” Jack replied, fumbling around in the pitch darkness. “Here, take this!” The Devil said, throwing Jack a piece of burning lava. Jack quickly took a turnip out of his pocket and carved it into a lantern to carry the lava coal inside. Afterwards, he roamed the world, holding up his lantern to guide the lost souls who, like him, can find no rest.
The first Jack-O-Lanterns do look very much like rotting decapitated heads, with hideous expressions carved onto them, for myself, I much prefer the happy orange pumpkins that we have today, happy Halloween all!
Here is our own jack-o-lantern we created this year, in case you wanted to get spooky!