History of the jack-o-lantern

It all started with the devil in Ireland


Mauverneen Blevins


Would you believe the original jack-o-lantern was a turnip? Seems the Irish gave us the jack-o-lantern. It's based on a folktale about Stingy Jack.

The details vary from place to place, but essentially, the story, according to www.jack-o-lantern.com, is this: Stingy Jack tricked the devil-not once, but twice-and was condemned to wander the land with nothing but a glowing ember in a turnip to light his way for all eternity.

It all started when Jack and the devil were having a drink.

Jack, being stingy, did not want to pay. So he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin Jack could use to pay the bartender.

Instead, Jack pocketed the coin. His pocket also contained a cross, which prevented the devil from changing himself back. Jack agreed to free the devil in return for the devil's promise not to bother Jack for 10 years.

When the decade was up, Jack and the devil met again.

This time, Jack talked the devil into getting some apples out of a tree. While the devil was up in the tree, Jack carved a cross into it, preventing the devil from coming down. This time, Jack made the devil promise never to take his soul.

When Jack finally died, his misbegotten life meant he was refused admission into heaven. But he couldn't get into hell either, because the devil had promised never to take Jack's soul.

Thus, Jack was doomed to wander forever in darkness.

Afraid, Jack asked for something to light his way. The devil tossed him an ember from the flames of hell, which Jack placed in a hollowed-out turnip. Turnips, you see, were abundant in Ireland.

He became known as Jack of the Lantern, or, Jack-o-Lantern.

For centuries, the Irish would place coals or candles in hollowed-out turnips, potatoes and gourds on Halloween night to ward off ghosts. They figured not even a ghost would want to come near the doomed soul of Stingy Jack.

When Irish immigrants came to America, they brought their legends with them.

Turnips, however, were not so abundant here. But pumpkins were.

• Pumpkin carving tips, from www.pumpkin- carving101.com:

Choose a pumpkin that is free of nicks and bruises. A bruised pumpkin won't last as long.

Cut off the top or bottom. If you cut the bottom, the pumpkin will sit flatter. If you cut the top, angle the cut so the top won't fall in.

Either way, make the opening big enough to easily scoop out the seeds and the rest of the stringy mess. Place lots of newspaper under the pumpkin for easier cleanup.

Draw or outline your design on the pumpkin before beginning to cut.

Cut a small vent hole in the top of your jack-o-lantern to let most of the heat from the candle escape. It will keep the pumpkin from cooking and make it last longer.

• Roasting pumpkin seeds, from www.Halloween-kitchen.com:

Don't wash seeds-it takes away the natural flavor.

Spread them thinly on a cookie sheet, salt if desired, and bake at 250 degrees for about 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven when seeds are a very light gold color. Finally, enjoy-pumpkin seeds are very good for you. They have lots of nutrients, including A and B vitamins, iron and zinc, to mention just a few.

For more Halloween tips-from decorating ideas to safety hints, visit www.Halloween-online.com



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