Halloween is right around the corner. Time to rustle up the kids, candy, and beer (depending on age) and go enjoy the crisp fall air. There are a lot of Halloween traditions: black cats, candy corn, pumpkins, trick or treating, etc. Perhaps the most enduring icon of these is the pumpkin, more specifically, the jack-o-lantern.
The jack-o-lantern originates in Irish folklore. According to legend there was once a greedy, evil man named Jack. Jack did not have many friends and loved to drink. One day when he was at the pub, Jack saw the devil enter and pull up a seat right next to him.
The two began to talk and before long Jack had convinced the devil to buy his soul in exchange for one last drink. But neither Jack nor the devil had any money left, so the devil turned himself into a coin for Jack to spend on a measure of rum. But the devil was deceived.
Jack placed the coin in his pocket right next to a crucifix, stripping the devil of all his power. Jack told the devil that if he ever wanted to get his power back he would have to agree never to take Jack’s soul. The devil agreed.
Twenty years later Jack died; but he was an evil man and couldn’t enter heaven; because the devil agreed not to take his soul, Jack was not allowed into hell either. So his spirit wandered the earth; lost, lonely, and cold.
Eventually Jack returned to the gates of hell and told the devil that he could not stand the cold of death any longer. The devil laughed in his face and gave him a red-hot coal that burned with the fire of eternity.
The coal kept Jack warm. But one dark and stormy night, when Jack was walking through the woods the coal nearly burned out, so Jack found a turnip, carved it out, and placed the coal inside—protecting it from ever dying. To this day Jack of the Lantern wanders this earth, looking for unsuspecting travellers to deceive.
Eventually hollowed out turnips became the symbol of a damned soul. The Irish believed that on Halloween night evil spirits emerged from their graves to walk the earth. In an effort to ward off these ghosts the Irish placed candies on their doorstep, dressed in scary costumes, and placed jack-o-lanterns on their porches.
When Irish people began immigrating to America, they quickly discovered that there weren’t many turnips. Pumpkins, on the other hand, were plentiful so they used those instead. Thus, the tradition of carved-out pumpkins was born.
Celebrate this Halloween with a pumpkin sign of your own, and while you’re at it, check out the Lumos Harry Potter Address Plaque–a winner for any season!