Have you ever wondered how pumpkins went from being used as food to Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween? Well, there is a crazy history of Jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween that you just got to hear. Therefore, prepare yourself for the unexpected and a good laugh.
Halloween began centuries ago over the pond on October 31 as a Celtic festival called Samhain. As it appears, the people believed it was the time where the world of the living and that of the dead intersected. To keep safe from restless dead spirits that could possibly cross over, a Druid (priest) would set a large bonfire in the village. Afterwards, the Druid would travel home to home with a sacred torch ignited from the bonfire. His purpose was to light a new fire for the family as a means of protection from those evil spirits to survive the darkness of the night and winter.
To the pagans, All-hallows-even or Hallow Eve was about the spirit world. Jack-o-lanterns didn’t come into play in Great Britain until Stingy-Jack in Ireland entered the picture. According to the legend, he invited the Devil to have a drink with him on that night. Of course, the Devil couldn’t pass up the invitation and possible way to get a new soul. Now Stingy-Jack was just as cunning as he was stingy so he made up a story to convince the Devil to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks. Never anticipating he was falling into a trap, the Devil agreed. But before the Devil could figure out that he was being played, Stingy-Jack stuck the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross for protection to prevent the Devil’s escape.
For an entire year, Stingy-Jack carried the Devil in his pocket until he eventually made a bargain with the Devil. Why he ever decided to release him, is unknown, but Stingy-Jack vowed he would take the silver cross out that was imprisoning the Devil only if he met his terms. Stingy-Jack wanted the Devil to leave him alone for one year. Furthermore, if he should die, the Devil had to promise not to take his soul. Naturally, the frustrated Devil agreed, no doubt appreciating the devious nature of his future recruit that could be put to good use to do his evil bidding.
Stingy-Jack decided the following Halloween to invite the Devil to join him for some fruit. The Devil assumed the offer was made in good faith by someone that showed great promise in the underworld. Feeling more confident than ever, Stingy-Jack told the Devil the best fruit was high in a certain tree that he was unable to climb. The only way that they could enjoy eating it was if the Devil went up the tree to drop the fruit down.
As the Devil busied himself picking fruit, he was unaware of what Stingy-Jack was doing on the ground. He was carving a cross in the tree, which confined the Devil above. As it seemed, Stingy-Jack outsmarted the Devil a second time. This time he made the Devil promise to leave him alone for ten years and by chance, if he should die that he would not take his soul. Fuming, the Devil agreed yet again, while planning his own special revenge.
During that stretch of time, Stingy-Jack died. God refused to let his soul into Heaven. Stingy-Jack went to the Devil with hopes of getting into Hell, but the Devil had a long memory. He told Stingy-Jack that he was keeping that promise he wanted so much. As an alternative, the Devil gave him a burning coal as a parting gift to help him light the way. To preserve its glow, Stingy-Jack stuck the burning coal inside a carved-out turnip, where he carries forever through the Halloween night, wandering restlessly through time.
At first, grotesque faces were carved into potatoes and turnips to ward off the ghost of Stingy-Jack throughout Ireland and Scotland. These Jack-o’-lanterns were left outside the doors to prevent his restless spirit from gaining access to their homes is how this crazy history of Jack-o-lanterns started on Halloween.
The history of Jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween as we know it with menacing faces into carved pumpkins originated years later. Happy Halloween!