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