In October, carved pumpkins can be seen illuminating doorsteps and pathways in neighborhoods all over the world. It’s a tradition that is a ubiquitous Halloween symbol for kids and adults. But did you know the tradition dates back hundreds of years to a spooky Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack? We sure didn’t, until we started researching why we carve pumpkins for Halloween!
Read on to find out how the story of Stingy Jack turned into a lasting tradition we still participate in today!
Why We Carve Pumpkins Each Halloween
History of the Jack O’Lantern
The history of the Jack O’Lantern begins hundreds of years ago with an Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack. According to the tale, Stingy Jack invites the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his nickname, Stingy Jack doesn’t want to pay for the drink. Instead, he convinces the Devil to turn into a coin to ‘pay’ for the drink. Instead of paying with the coin, Jack places the coin next to a cross – essentially trapping the Devil in the coin form. Legend does not state whether Jack paid for the drink another way. Eventually, Jack agrees to free the Devil under the conditions that the Devil must not bother him for one year and when Jack dies, the Devil can’t claim his soul.
When another year comes around, Jack tricks the Devil again. He convinces the Devil to climb a tree in search of a ripe piece of fruit. While the Devil is up there, Jack carves a cross into the base of the tree; preventing the Devil from climbing down. To get down, the Devil agrees to not bother Jack for a 10-year period, and should he die, again the Devil promises not to take Jack’s soul.
WhenJack eventually dies, God decides that due to his trickery, Jack will not be allowed into heaven. He’s also not allowed into Hell because the Devil agreed not to take his soul. So, the Devil sends Jack off into the night to wonder with only a piece of burning coal lighting his way. Jack eventually puts the coal into a carved-out turnip to light his way.
Fast forward to present day, we now use carved pumpkins to represent Jack’s lantern as he wanders the night.
Pretty creepy huh?! Now you can explain to your friends why we carve pumpkins.