Why are they called Jack O’Lanterns?

Like the pumpkin? It’s real by the way, very good craftsmanship.  Now before we get started, I just wanted to make a point.

That point is about pumpkins, which are actually fruits, not vegetables.

A pumpkin is actually a giant, orange squash. They’re members of the gourd family, which also includes watermelons and zucchini. They are 90-percent water and also contain high concentrations of potassium and vitamin A. But anyway…

As part of the Samhain celebration, Celts would bring home an ember from the communal bonfire at the end of the night. They carried these embers in hollowed-out turnips, creating a lantern resembling the modern day jack-o’-lantern.

But let’s back up a little; the direct predecessor of jack-o’-lanterns dates from 18th-century Ireland.  A very popular character in Irish folk tales was a man named,  Stingy Jack, he would, on several occasions, avoid damnation by tricking the devil (often on “All Hallows’ Eve” a.k.a Halloween). In one story, he convinced Satan to climb up a tree for some apples and then cut crosses all around the trunk so the devil couldn’t climb down. The devil promised to leave Jack alone forever, ­if he would only let him out of the tree.

How does all this tie in to what we do today?

Well, as the legend has it, when Jack eventually died, he was turned away from Heaven, due to his life of sin. But, in keeping with their agreement, the Devil wouldn’t take Jack either. He was cursed to travel forever as a spirit in limbo. As Jack left the gates of Hell, the Devil threw him a hot ember to light the way in the dark. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip and wandered off into the world. According to the Irish legend, you might see Jack’s spirit on All Hallows’ Eve, still carrying his turnip lantern through the darkness.



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