Back when a Carved Pumpkin Was a Turnip… Part 2 of the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

Mummies are naturally scary, so it isn’t surprising that one ended up on a pumpkin in the Egyptian section at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI.


Jack-o-Lantern wasn’t always a pumpkin. To find his ancestors, you have to travel back in time to Ireland and meet Stingy Jack. True to his name, Jack was a tight-fisted fellow who never spent a penny on buying anything if he could persuade someone else to. He even tricked the Devil— never a good idea.

Apparently, he was having a pint with the Devil at a local pub and persuaded him to become a silver coin to pay for the drinks. (Devils can do that kind of thing.) Jack decided to keep the coin, however, so he dropped it into his pocket next to a silver cross that kept the Devil from turning back into his nasty old self. Jack finally freed the fiend when he promised not to bother him for a year or claim his soul.

The next year, Jack pulled another trick on the Devil. It appears that the guy from Hell was a slow learner. This time Jack persuaded the Devil to climb a fruit tree and fetch a piece of fruit. Jack then carved a cross into the trunk so the Devil couldn’t climb down. Only when he promised not to bother Jack for another ten years, did he allow the Devil to descend.

Not long afterwards, Jack died, but there was no way that God was going to allow this stingy trickster into Heaven. So, he bounced him back to the Devil, who couldn’t let Jack into Hell because of his promise. Instead, he condemned Jack to forever roam the earth at night with nothing more than a candle held by a carved turnip.

In Ireland and Scotland, folks were soon carving scary faces on turnips and potatoes on Halloween to scare Jack and other nasty characters of the night away. When they arrived in America in the 1600s and 1700s, they discovered that pumpkins were much easier to carve and the tradition took hold.

Today marks my second day of featuring pumpkins from the Jack-0-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island that Peggy and I visited in early October. Today, the art-carved pumpkins are featuring Egypt. Enjoy and Happy Halloween.

The Scarab Beetle was also a powerful force against evil. On a more prosaic level, the Scarab Beetle is a member of the dung beetle family that likes to roll large balls of poop along behind them.

Not sure what this says, but I am going to assume that the message is scary.

Scary Egyptian beast at Jack-o-Lanter Spectacular in Providence Rhode Island

And if that isn’t scary enough, maybe this Egyptian beastie is. I’d have no desire to meet up with it on a dark night, or a sunny day, as far as that goes.

Egyptian scene at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

A final Egyptian scene featuring a sphinx that was looking more scary than inscrutable. The camels are a nice touch.

Pumpkin with checkered past at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

This guy isn’t too scary until you think about his checkered past.

Angry pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

Okay, scary!

Pumpkins in trees at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

The small pumpkins staring down at us from up in the trees at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular definitely added a touch of spooky.

Scary ghost at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

As did this colorful ghost that I will conclude today’s post with.


NEXT POST: We will journey off to the beautiful but mysterious Far East.




27 thoughts on “Back when a Carved Pumpkin Was a Turnip… Part 2 of the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

  1. Plenty of scary stuff here. And that Egyptian carved one? Whoa! Such work. But mostly thanks for the info on Stingy Jack and that turnip. Good to know. But why are we not carving turnips instead of pumpkins? (I like the pumpkins way better!)

  2. And now I’m thinking about that old saying that goes something like, “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.” Everyone knows that it refers to a naive or rustic person, but I wonder if it might be rooted in some of these tales.

    In any event, it was a highly entertaining post, and it was fun to see more of the carved punkins!

    • The proverbial farm kid in a city. Here’s another one: harder than squeezing blood from a turnip. I used to have a word origin book that was prime bathroom reading material. I am always looking up where words and phrases come from. Fascinating. Don’t know where the book went. Lost in a move I guess.
      Anyway, I did a quick search and didn’t find any link. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Thanks, Linda. Always enjoy your comments and thoughts. –Curt

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s