Jack-O-Lantern Folklore

Irish Folklore and the Jack-O-Lantern

The legend began in Ireland and varies slightly on the history of the jack-o’-lantern depending on who’s telling the story. But the storie involves a sly drunkard that pulls one over on the devil. Legend has it, in 18th-century Ireland, drunkard name Stingy Jack  asked the devil to go have a drink with him. The two went for a drink and when the bill came, there was that awkward moment as to who should pay the bill.  Jack expected the devil to take care of things, but the devil thought otherwise.  Being that Jack had no money, he convinced the devil to turn himself into a six pence coin to pay the bill. The devil fell for it and Jack kept the coin and left the pub without paying the tab.  Stingy Jack put the six pence into his pocket to rest together with a silver cross.

Stingy Jack Tricks the Devil

Stingy Jack decided to to let the devil out of his pocket, only if the devil would agree not to come after Jack for 10 years, depending on who tells this story.  The devil agreed, and was removed from Stingy Jack’s pocket and went on his way.  At the end of the agreed 10 years the devil found Jack. Again, Jack tricked the devil and left the devil stranded in a tree.

When Jack died, St. Peter rejected Stingy Jack at the pearly gates of heaven because of his shady past. The devil wouldn’t an let Jack into hell.  Jack was given a lump of burning coal by the devil to light his way through purgatory. Jack carried the burning coal inside a hollowed out turnip.

Jack-O-Lanterns come to the New World

Irish families told the tale and began to put carved out turnips in their windows to prevent Stingy Jack and other ghouls and gobblins from entering their homes. Some carving would have scary faces carved into them to frighten away any unwanted guests.  Irish immigrants to the United States realized that the pumpkin, native to the states, was an ideal fruit for carving. So started the tradition of the jack-o’-lantern on porches at Halloween.

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