How the Jack O’ Lantern Came to Be

The+record+for+the+largest+Jack+O%E2%80%99+Lantern+ever+carved+was+achieved+from+a+pumpkin+weighing+1%2C810.5+lb.
The record for the largest Jack O’ Lantern ever carved was achieved from a pumpkin weighing 1,810.5 lb.

The record for the largest Jack O’ Lantern ever carved was achieved from a pumpkin weighing 1,810.5 lb.

The record for the largest Jack O’ Lantern ever carved was achieved from a pumpkin weighing 1,810.5 lb.

Lianys Olmeda, Staff Writer

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As Halloween gets closer, one can see pumpkins appearing everywhere, whether real or fake. People across the nation enjoy celebrating this holiday by practicing one of its many traditions, pumpkin carving. The classic Jack O’ Lantern has been a staple of Halloween for many years, but how did it all start?

The tradition was brought over to the Americas by the Irish; however, the original Jack O’ Lanterns weren’t pumpkins at all. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland would carve turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets instead. They carved mainly turnips during All Hallows’ Eve and placed an ember in them in order to ward off evil spirits. However, there was one specific spirit that they strove to keep away the most through this tradition.

The Jack O’ Lantern legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish history, thus there are variations to the story. Nevertheless, the most popular story centers around Stingy Jack, a cranky old drunk who loved to play tricks on everyone. His love for tricking others didn’t just extend to humans, but he enjoyed tricking even the Devil himself. One day, as Stingy Jack was walking along the country road, he encountered the Devil. A few years before this encounter, Jack had already met the Devil and had tricked him to promise him he wouldn’t take his soul in the next ten years. As he was walking down the road, his time was up, and the Devil had come to collect his payment and it was time for Jack to pay his dues. Yet, Jack wasn’t going to give up that easily. He said he would go with him if the Devil picked an apple from an apple tree nearby and gave it to him. Thinking nothing of it, the Devil climbed up the tree to get the apple. However, he was unable to come down since Jack had placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Stingy Jack said he would let him come down once he promised not to ever take his soul (no time limits this time) once he died, and the Devil begrudgingly agreed.

A few years went by and Jack eventually died. As he saw the pearly gates of Heaven and was ready to enter paradise, he was stopped. He was not allowed to go in on account of his immoral life and actions on Earth. So, having nowhere else to go, he went to Hell and asked the Devil whether he could go to Hell instead; however, the Devil kept his promise and denied him passage. Confused and scared, Jack didn’t know what else to do since he was now literally stuck between Heaven and Hell. In order to leave the Netherworld, he needed some light to guide his way since the path was dark. Pleading with the Devil, he finally gave Jack an ember from the fiery depths of Hell. He placed the ember inside a carved turnip, which was his favorite food and thus carried everywhere and left. In this way, Stingy Jack was forced to roam the Earth with nowhere to rest and nowhere to go, with only the shining turnip to guide his way. Therefore, Ancient Celtics would carve turnips and place embers in them in order to ward off evil spirits, especially Stingy Jack’s. When many Irish immigrants came to the Americas during the 1800s, they brought along with them the carving tradition. Furthermore, while in America they discovered that pumpkins were bigger and thus easier to carve out and decided to use the orange squash instead of the previous alternatives. As a result the Halloween tradition as we know it was born.

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