Stingy Jack? To carve a Jack-O-Lantern; it is to Halloween just as a pumpkin pie is to Thanksgiving. But how did this spooky ritual of lighting up the face of a pumpkin come about?
The Jack-O-Lantern folk tradition was brought to America from European immigrants. There is an old Irish folk tale from the 1600’s about a lying, cheating, drunk of a man named Stingy Jack. His reputation was so bad, that even Satan was jealous of his trickery, and decided it was time to collect his wretched soul. One night, Satan disguised himself as a dead man fallen upon the path that Jack was soon to cross. Jack was note easily fooled. He new this posing corpse was really Satan in disguise, and that his time on earth was finally up. He asked Satan for one last chance to drink some alcoholic spirits before his eternal departure to Hades.
A Trick for a Treat
Satan was curious to see what shenanigans Jack was up to this time. So he took him to the local pub to imbibe. Upon drinking his fill, Jack did indeed have a trick up his sleeve. He asked Satan to turn himself into a coin, so he could pay the bartender’s tab. What next, Satan wondered? So Satan went ahead and transformed into a coin. Sneaky as he was, Jack put the Satan coin into his pocket…right next to the crucifix which he kept there faithfully. This trapped Satan, so he could not transform out of his coin form. Satan had to agree to give Jack ten more years of life on Earth in order to be set free.
Stingy Jack has One Last Trick
Exactly ten years later, Satan again came to Jack as a dead man with a spooky disfigured face. Jack asked Satan for one last chance to eat a delicious apple before going to Hades. Satan, beaming in the delight of finely getting to have this prized soul, thought nothing of the request. Like a black cat, Satan stealthfully climbed up a nearby apple tree to fetch Stingy Jack’s last meal. However, Jack was not yet done with his tricks. He had a pocketful of crucifixes which he quickly encircled around the tree that Satan had just climbed. Jack negotiated that his soul could never go to Hades in return for letting Satan go. Satan furiously agreed.
Stick a Candle in It
About ten more years went by, and Stingy Jack had finally drunken himself to death. His soul headed to the pearly gates, but Heaven would not except his type, and sent him to Hades instead. Satan got the last trick on Jack, reminding him of the promise that his soul could never be doomed in Hates. Satan condemned Jack to an eternal night in the never-world. He turned Jack’s face into a distorted gourd with an ever burning piece of coal as black as his soul.
To this day, Stingy Jack roams the night with his haunting face. He is known as Jack of the Lantern, which has since been shortened to Jack-O-Lantern.
- History Channel Editors. (10/27/2009). History of the Jack-O-Lantern. The Legend of Stingy Jack. From: https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/jack-olantern-history
- Hoffherr, J. (10/29/14). The History of the Jack-O-Lantern. How it All Began with a Turnip. Boston News. From: https://www.boston.com/news/history/2014/10/29/the-history-of-the-jack-o-lantern-how-it-all-began-with-a-turnip
By: Kathy Sadowski, www.EarthtoKathy.com