Carving jack-o-lanterns is a Halloween staple, but there’s more to the frightening faces in our pumpkins than just adding some flair to your decorations.
According to legend, the act of carving faces into pumpkins (or turnips as they originally were), can trace its roots back to a man in Irish folklore known as Stingy Jack.
Stingy Jack was not the nicest person–always drunk, miserable to be around, and he enjoyed playing tricks on people. He even went so far as to play a nasty trick on the Devil. Somehow Jack convinced the Devil to climb an apple tree before he placed a series of crosses around the base of the tree, trapping the Devil in its branches. Jack forced the Devil to promise to never take his soul, and only after the Devil agreed, did Jack remove the crosses.
Fast forward a few years, and Jack arrives at the pearly gates. Because he was such a miserable human being in life, he is turned away, and when he approaches Hell, the Devil keeps his promise and refuses to allow Jack to enter the firey pit.
Forced to wander between Heaven and Hell, Jack takes an ember from hell and places it in a turnip (apparently his favorite food) to light his way. He became known as Jack of the Lantern (jack-o-lantern).
On All Hallow’s Eve (the night when the world of the dead and the world of the living seem to touch), the Irish would take turnips, beets, and squash, hollow them out, and place candles in them to ward off evil spirits and to keep Stingy Jack away from playing any tricks on them.
Today, many people carve silly faces into their pumpkins or even dramatic scenes of graveyards, churches, and haunted houses. But many still follow the tradition of carving a terrifying face into their gourd in the hopes of keeping the evil spirits away from their homes… and maybe even Jack of the Lantern.
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