The Jack-o-Lantern Tale

The Jack-o-Lantern custom is thought to come from Irish folklore.  The tale goes like this–There was a man named Jack who was known as a drunkard and trickster.  He tricked Satan into climbing into a tree.  After Satan climbed into the tree, Jack carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk.  Satan was trapped in the tree and couldn’t come down.  It is thought that Jack made a deal with the devil that, if the devil would never tempt Jack again that Jack would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died he was not let into Heaven because of his evil ways.  He was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil.  Because he was not let into Heaven or Hell he was destined to roam the earth listlessly.  The devil gave Jack a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness and keep the evil spirits away.

The Irish used turnips as their “Jack’s lanterns” originally, but when the immigrants came to America they found that there were a lot more pumpkins around than turnips.  So in America hollowed-out pumpkins were used instead of turnips and they were lit with an ember or a candle.  Pumpkins are carved into jack-o-lanterns, lit and put outside in people’s yards, outside of doorways,  and on porches to decorate for Halloween!

Filed under: Pumpkins