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Jack O Lantern Legend or Myth?

Updated on September 3, 2012

Stingy Jack

The Irish tradition of the Jack O'Lantern, originated from a tale centuries old of a lazy and shrewd farmer named Stingy Jack, who liked playing tricks on everyone. Stingy Jack's favorite food was turnips, which he carried with him whenever he had the opportunity to steal them from other farmers.

Irish legend, hundreds of years old, give us the story of Stingy Jack, who was nothing more than a mean old drunk. One day his trickery got the better of him when he tricked the Devil into climbing up a nearby apple tree. As the legend goes, once the Devil was up the tree, Stingy Jack placed crosses at the base of the tree so that the Devil could not come down.

A Traditional Irish Jack O'Lantern
A Traditional Irish Jack O'Lantern

A Deal with the Devil

Jack refused to remove the crosses, trapping the Devil in the tree, until the Devil promised Jack that he would not take his soul when he died. Many years later Jack died and he went before Saint Peter and the pearly gates of Heaven. Saint Peter told Jack that he was not allowed to enter Heaven because of the mean and cruel ways he acted as a man during his life on earth. Jack then went to Hell where he tried to enter, the Devil keeping his promise, would not allow him to enter.

Jack turned and saw that the way back was windy and dark so asked the Devil how he was supposed to leave when there was no light for him to see. The Devil threw him a fiery ember from the flames of Hell which Jack placed into a hollowed out turnip to help light his way. For all eternity Jack is left to roam the earth in unrest, carrying his Jack O'Lantern to light his way.

Jack O'Lantern Trivia Facts

*The Irish used hollowed out potatoes, beets, turnips, and gourds to place a light source inside to help ward off evil spirits on all Hallow's Eve.

*Irish immigrants came to America during the 1800s and found that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve than the usual turnips and gourds, creating the Jack O'Lanterns we still know today.

*Jack O'Lanterns became officially associated with Halloween around 1866. Carving out pumpkins and creating faces on them has been around since about 1837.

*A strange phenomenon called ignis fatuus, also meaning Jack O'Lantern, is an eerie light that can be seen flickering over peat bogs in the dark of night.

*Pumpkins are indigenous to the western hemisphere and have been grown in North America for five thousand years.

*The largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 2,020 pounds in 2005.

*Did you know that The "pumpkin capital" of the world is Morton, Illinois and is the home of the Libby corporation's pumpkin industry.



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