The first jack-o’-lanterns were carved from turnips and potatoes and were meant to ward off the ghost of an Irish folk legend.
During this time of year children and adults alike delight in carving pumpkins. Surely you’ve been seeing them proudly displayed on porches and in windows the last few weeks. Carving a jack-o’-lantern is a long-standing tradition in this country, but did you know that we have the Irish to thank for introducing it to us?
According to an Irish folktale, a man called “Stingy Jack” invited the devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so that he could pay. The Devil did so, but instead Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross, which kept him from changing back into his original form.
Eventually Jack freed the Devil, but on the condition that if he died in the next year he wouldn’t come back to claim his soul. After a year passed the Devil came for Jack, but he tricked him into climbing a tree and then Jack carved a cross into the trunk so that the Devil could not come down. Jack made the Devil promise that he wouldn’t come back for Jack for 10 years.
The legend says that Jack died soon after but God wouldn’t allow him into heaven and the Devil kept his word that he wouldn’t claim his soul so he wasn’t taken to hell. He gave Jack a lump of burning coal and sent him off alone into the dark night. Jack put the coal into a hollowed out turnip and has been wandering the earth ever since. The Irish referred to his ghostly figure as “Jack of the lantern.”
In Ireland and Scotland people started making their own lanterns by carving them out of turnips and potatoes and placed them in doors and windows to ward off Stingy Jack and other spirits. Irish immigrants to America brought this tradition with them and found that the native pumpkins were easy to carve into a jack-o’-lantern.
We’ve got plenty of treats for you and the entire family to enjoy this Halloween at Gunther Toody’s! Come visit us after you’re done carving your jack-o’-lantern.