How Jack-o’-Lanterns Fit into Halloween

Jack-o'-lantern on Halloween
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Ever wonder why on Halloween we carve pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns as Halloween Deocrations? The story of the Jack-o’-lantern goes back hundreds of years. In Europe, (especially Ireland and Scotland) a jack-o’-lantern is usually a carved Turnip, and unlike it’s American counterpart, is actually carried as a lantern, hung from a string or stick on Halloween night.

The mythology behind jack-o’-lanterns is rich and varied. Many of the stories are set on Halloween and are often associated with the evils of drink.

The Most Famous Jack-o’-lantern story

One Halloween night, Jack, a notorious drunk, has one too many drinks at the local pub and his soul begins to slip from his body. The Devil appears to claim it, but Jack suggests they have one drink together before going. The Devil tells jack he has no money, and Jack suggests that he change himself into a sixpence, then change back after paying. The Devil transforms into the coin, and Jack snatches the sixpence and puts it in his change purse, which has a silver catch in the shape of a cross, trapping the Devil.

Jack makes the Devil promise to leave for a year, then frees him. The following Halloween Jack runs into the Devil on a lonely country road. Nearby is an apple tree and Jack suggests they each have an apple, but the Devil says that the fruit is too high up on the tree for his reach. Jack suggests that the Devil stand on his shoulders and when the Devil does, Jack whips out his pocketknife and carves the sign of the cross on the trunk of the tree, and the Devil can’t come down, trapped once again. This time Jack makes the Devil promise to leave him alone for good and the desperate Devil agrees.

Before next Halloween Jack dies and is turned away from Heaven, but the Devil turns him away from the gates of Hell as well. Finally, Jack asks for a light to find his way back, and the Devil throws him a chunk of live coal from the hell furnace. Jack puts it inside the turnip he’s been gnawing, and with this jack-o’-lantern, he has been wandering the earth ever since.

So this Halloween, as you carve your pumpkin into a scary or humorous Halloween Decoration, remember poor Jack.

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