By Lecquia Chang, Year 11

Do these look familiar?

 

Yes, it’s the classic Halloween ornament- the Jack O’ Lantern. Every October, pumpkin picking season takes place (typically in the northern hemisphere) for pumpkins to be carved into ghoulish faces and illuminate in the night at doorsteps. But have you wondered why? Why carve faces into pumpkins?

The Jack O’ Lantern originates from the Irish myth of a man named “Stingy Jack” and its craft has been practised for centuries. Legend says that “Stingy Jack” had invited the one and only devil for a drink however “stingy” as he was, Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink and requested for the Devil to turn into a coin so that he could pay for their drinks. However, proud of his abilities to trick the Devil, he kept the coin next to a silver cross to prevent the Devil from transforming back into its original form and later freeing it with the condition that it does not bother him for one year and that his soul is not claimed by the Devil if Jack is to die.

One year had passed and Jack and the Devil had come into acquaintance again. Jack again persuaded the Devil to climb a tree to pick a fruit but carved a cross on the tree to hinder it from coming down until the Devil promised that it would not bother him for ten years.

Soon, Jack died and for the sinful man he was, the Irish legend states that heaven would not permit his presence. Likewise, the Devil did not allow him to enter Hell and instead sent him away in the night with only one burning coal. Jack than placed the coal into a carved turnip and, until today, the ghost of “Jack of the Lantern” continues to roam the Earth.

In essence of the Irish tale, the early civilians of Ireland and Scotland created their imaginative versions of Stingy Jack’s turnip lantern by carving faces onto turnips and potatoes, and sitting them at their windows in hope to frighten Jack’s ghost and other evil spirits away. In England, large beetroots were used instead and as immigration took place in America, pumpkins were found to be perfect for the custom.

Happy Halloween!

Source: History of the Jack O’ Lantern, Available: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history, Accessed: 27th October 2017

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