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How the Jack-O-Lantern Came to Be

Written by: Terry Kaufman
Published on: October 16, 2011
Category: Halloween


The name Jack O'Lantern finds its origins in old Irish folk tales. Long ago, there was an Irishman named Jack who was of dubious character. He was a notorious drunkard and troublemaker.

One day he tricked the Devil into climbing up a tree. The reprobate Jack proceeded to carve a representation of the Holy Cross into the trunk of the tree, thus trapping Satan high up in the branches.

Jack and Satan made a deal: Jack would allow the Devil to get out of the tree, on the condition that the Devil never tried to tempt Jack to go astray ever again.

Jack had dug himself into the proverbial hole: when he died, he was denied entry into Heaven because of his evil ways. Hell refused him entrance because he had tricked the Devil. Satan gave Jack a single ember to guide his way through the bitterly cold blackness. A hollowed - out turnip was used to hold the ember, allowing the flame to continue glowing.

Jack's punishment was to walk in neverending darkness; he carried a fiery coal inside an emptied - out turnip to help him see wherever he traveled. After a while, he came to be known as "Jack of the Lantern" or "Jack O'Lantern.

Turnips were originally used in Ireland as lanterns. However, Irishmen migrating to America soon learned that turnips were not nearly as plentiful as were pumpkins. The American settlers quickly adopted the pumpkin as the squash of choice for their Jack O'Lantern, complete with a glowing ember.

When carving your Jack O'Lantern you will need the correct tools to produce your masterpiece. To get good results you will need knives and other implements that are sharp, flexible, thin, and sturdy.

A long, thin-bladed boning knife is the ideal tool with which to cut the top hole and any large pieces from the face of the pumpkin. Detail work can be done with a very thin-bladed paring knife. Several different types and sizes of spoons do a great job removing seeds, pulp, and skin from the inside of the pumpkin. A large metal ladle or an ice cream scoop are perfect for scrapping.

There are many Halloween superstitions floating around to entertain us. The black cat is thought to have magical powers: certain bones are reputed to make wishes come true or to make someone invisible. A bizarre superstition involves snails. Some believers who embrace the tales of the Old World say that if you catch a snail on Halloween night and lock it into a flat dish, upon rising in the morning you will see the first initial of your sweetheart's name written in the snail slime. Yuck!

About the Author

Terry Kaufman is Chief Editorial Writer for www.niftykitchen.com and www.niftyhomebar.com. See more on Halloween, at www.niftyhomebar.com/site/372135/page/93653.