Have you ever wondered why we use Pumpkins at Halloween?
Well according to legend over 700,000 immigrants went to America during the Potato Famine and they brought with them the tradition o f the Jack O Lanterns.
The Jack O lanterns were originally made from potatoes, beet or turnips and were lit up with a burning piece of coal or a candle. They signified the souls of departed loved ones and were positioned in windows or porches to welcome the deceased. They were also used as a protection against evil spirits.
Turnips were not as easily obtainable in America so the pumpkin was used as a replacement and has been an important part of Halloween since the Victorian era.
There are many tales and stories surrounding the beginning of the Jack O Lantern and one such tale is that of an Irishman named Jack.
He was notorious for liking a” jar” or two and when drunk would show his nasty side. He would get so drunk on a Halloween night that his soul began to leave his body. The Devil saw his chance to take a victim and came to Jack. He pleaded with the Devil to have one last drink. The Devil agreed but said he had no money. Jack said he had only a sixpence left and asked the Devil to take the guise of a sixpence so he could pay for his drink. When the drink was paid for the Devil could change back as himself.
The Devil agreed. As soon as he had changed himself to a sixpence Jack snatched the coin and put it in his wallet which had a cross shaped catch. The Devil was trapped and began raging and cursing. A deal was made that Jack would let the Devil out if he left him alone for one year. Again the Devil agreed.
Jack tried hard to change but it wasn’t long before he returned to his old ways and the Devil reappeared the following Halloween to claim Jacks soul.
Once again Jack tricked the Devil by suggesting he might like one of the delectable apples hanging from a tree nearby so the Devil stood on his shoulders to climb the tree. As the Devil was in the tree Jack carved a cross on the trunk so he could not climb down. The Devil was livid and in desperation he offered Jack ten years of freedom if he let him down from the tree. But Jack would only agree to this if the Devil freed him completely. The Devil agreed.
Jack went back to his old ways but died before the next Halloween.
He was refused entry to Heaven because of his nastiness in life and the Devil would not let him enter hell as he had agreed to free him completely. The Devil threw Jack a burning lump of coal so he could see on his journey. Jack put the coal in a carved out turnip to light his way on his never ending wanderings.
So these lanterns were put in porches and windows as a protection on Halloween and if Jack happened to pass by he would take the light instead of troubling anyone.
Don’t forget your Pumpkin for Halloween!