With Halloween creeping up on us, we wanted to explore how the pumpkin became significant for this season, and here in lies the tale of Jack O’ Lantern.
“Jack of the Lantern”, later abbreviated to Jack O’Lantern is a story in Irish folklore of which there are several variations, but all begin with a character known as Stingy Jack – a local man known for playing tricks on people.
One night in a local pub, the Devil offered to buy Jack a drink in exchange for his soul & transformed himself into a coin to pay for the drinks – Jack seized the opportunity and took the coin, putting it in his pocket where he kept a silver cross. The cross prevented the Devil from changing back, and Stingy Jack only let the Devil go after he agreed to wait before taking Jack’s soul.
Time passed and Jack bumped into the Devil beside an apple tree, where the Devil was again preparing to take his soul there and then. Stingy Jack again tricked the Devil by asking him to get him an apple from the top of the tree – whereupon he trapped the Devil by placing crosses around the base of the trunk, only letting the Devil go once he’d promised not to take his soul when he died.
Upon his death, Stingy Jack is turned away from heaven unable to enter because of his life on earth, so he goes down to Hell to the Devil, who remembering his promise will not allow him to enter. Scared with nowhere to go, Stingy Jack is trapped between Heaven and Hell, destined to wander the dark netherworld between the two. With no light to see by, Jack asks the Devil what he should do to find his way out. The Devil throws him an ember from the flames of hell, to help Stingy Jack see his way – the ember is too hot to carry, so Jack hollows out a turnip and places the ember inside it, offering a dim light by which to see. From that day forwards Stingy Jack continues to roam the earth without a resting place, with his lit turnip lighting the way.
When the Irish travelled to America during the potato famine, they took this folklore with them and for the first time saw the pumpkin – realising that this was softer and much easier to carve, pumpkins soon became adopted as the fruit of choice for Halloween lanterns. You can always find a very tasty edible version within our Halloween Treats Letterbox Giftbox – no carving necessary!