Ok ok queue up people calling me a liar, but in my giddiness for the holiday I thought a post about the Jack-o-lanterns was perfect to do.
The topic in question then? How we came to have Jack-o-Lanterns! Yes those wonderful pumpkins people hack up in a gourd based version of the chainsaw massacre. Carving, slicing, and scooping out their “brains” just to have another decoration on the front porch is a tradition for many people across the country and a few international boundaries as well. Why is it a tradition though? Skipping the Halloween origin story, since you can find that on any site, the story of the Jack-o-Lantern is nearly as old Halloween itself.
Now the folk lore following it varies from person to person but the short skit goes like this. The main character is a farmer named Jack and in one form or another he tricks the devil causing him to be trapped. Jack only agrees to let him go if the devil promised not to claim Jack’s soul when he died. The devil begrudgingly agrees and he is set free. Years later Jack does eventually die but he is left in a dilemma, that is he can’t go to heaven. Why is this? Well apparently he was a stingy son of a she-dog to the fault of sin (I’m guessing) and had a penchant for having sticky hands, for those heaven will not take him. The devil, being a man of his word, won’t take him either. This leaves Jack exasperated and he cries out “well how am I going to see where I’m going to go!?”. Apparently the after life doesn’t have a light switch, but anyway the devil flicked an ember from hell at Jack saying that that would never burn out and that would be his last favor. Jack grabbed a turnip left over from his farm and carved it out to place the ember inside. With a dim light emanating from the turnip Jack now wanders the earth to find a place to rest. After that he was called Jack of the lantern oooooor Jack-o-Lantern. Fives bucks he found someplace tropical and said “this’ll do”.
Story aside as the years went by people found it easier to carve pumpkins than turnips. That or there was a turnip shortage with a surplus of pumpkins, but either way we usually carve out pumpkins today. For the superstitious among us it is also thought that the food based lanterns can ward off evil spirits, the undead, and vampires. How the last two work is beyond me. I’d think zombies would be attracted to light and I don’t think a jack-o-lantern is an apt sun light replicator.
Smart Alecness aside a fun tradition that comes with free roasted seeds that come post baked.