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The History of The ‘Jack O’ Lantern’

Jack O Lanterns

I look forward to carving my pumpkin every year for Halloween, and last night I was thinking “who came up with the idea of a” jack o’ lantern”. So, I Googled it! I realize how random this is – just work with me.I found out some interesting info on the history of the “jack o’ lantern”. First all the term “jack o’ lantern” has been around since the mid-seventeenth century and was used to describe the guy in the village who stood guard at night – the night watchman. Well, the watchman carried around a lantern, cause you know back then there wasn’t electricity. Anyway, it was used to describe light flickering over a peat bog. Yes, I had to look up peat bog –  swampy, spongy,  wet ground.

An interesting folktale about the “jack o’ lantern” can be traced back to an Irish story about a guy named Jack.  The story goes something like this:Jack tricked the Devil into climbing up a tree. Jack then carved an image of the Holy Cross into the tree trunk, which prevented the Devil from climbing back down. Jack then made a deal with the Devil in exchange for allowing the Devil to climb down the tree, the Devil promised never to tempt Jack again.

When Jack died, he was not allowed into Heaven because he lived an evil and mischievous life. He was not permitted into Hell because of the trick he played on the Devil. The Devil gave Jack an ember to light his path through the blackness and the flame was placed inside a hollow turnip so it wouldn’t blow out. Jack became known as “Jack of the lantern” or Jack O’Lantern.

“Jack O’ Lanterns” are fun to make and my family has carved one every year since I can remember. I usually carve a fun face on one pumpkin and a scary face on another. One year when the Texas Rangers were in the World Series, I carved a Texas Ranger “jack o’ lantern”.


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