Thursday, October 1, 2009

HALLOWEEN HIJINKS: Jack O' Lanterns

Welcome one and all to the very first installment of Day of the Woman's Halloween Hijinks! Yes, I did snake the title from a book written by Mick Foley...sue me. Regardless, I've decided to dedicate the entire month of October to different things that put us in that festive mood. Today's focus is on that glowing orange grin on our doorsteps: The Jack O' Lantern.

The Irish brought the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O'Lantern was not even a pumpkin. The Jack O'Lantern legend goes back hundreds of years in Irish History. As the story goes, Stingy Jack was a miserable, old drunk who liked to play tricks on everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. Once the Devil climbed up the apple tree, Stingy Jack hurriedly placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. The Devil was then unable to get down the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. Once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses and let the Devil down.

Many years later, when Jack finally died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told by Saint Peter that he was too mean and too cruel and had led a miserable and worthless life on earth. He was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared and had nowhere to go but to wander about forever in the darkness between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell to help him light his way. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed out Turnip, one of his favorite foods which he always carried around with him whenever he could steal one. For that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern". On all Hallow's eve, the Irish hollowed out Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O'Lanterns. In the 1800's a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O'Lanterns.(pumpkin nook)


The Jack O' Lantern "character" pops up in popular culture when it comes to Halloween more than almost any other Halloween icon. Notably, we have Jack Pumpkinhead from the OZ book series, or Jack Skellington: the Pumpkin King from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Jack mask from Halloween III: Season of the Witch, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Marvel comics even have a Jack O'Lantern villian in the Machine Man series, and one of the more iconic characters-The Headless Horsemen from the Sleepy Hollow legend.

Jack O'Lanterns have become much more than just a simple candle in a vegetable. Pumpkin carving has gone from a simple holiday tradition, to a downright art form. People spend hours upon hours creating masterpieces out of pumpkins and there are competitions all over the world for people to showcase their talent of making a vegetable turn into a a work of art.


When it comes down to it, you just cant have Halloween without a Jack O'Lantern. Just guard them with your life, teenagers think it's hilarious to smash them...



5 comment(s):

The Curious Cat said...

I love this story - I knew it before but great to hear it again! And I am a BIG fan of the jack o'lantern!!! xxx

rylestheryter said...

i remember hearing that story a while back. and i love the Robot Chicken video. classic.

B-Sol said...

That Death Star Jack O'Lantern is AMAZING. Oh and technically, pumpkins are fruits. Yeah, I was surprised too.

Pax Romano said...

I have a request: Could you post a video of you carving out a pumpkin...WITH those FIERCE nails!

Seriously, loved this post.

Lily Strange said...

Pumpkin horror movies!

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