Why Do We Make Jack-O-Lanterns on Halloween?

Posted on October 10, 2011 by Claudio Zorrospín

Irish Turnip Jack-O’-Lantern

As you all may have noticed by the fact that it’s October, Halloween is coming. Which means that it’s almost time for you and your significant other to go out and pick some pumpkins, take em’ home, carve faces in them, stick candles in them, and then leave them out until sometime around the first snowfall when one of your neighbors finally threatens to call the cops if you “don’t stop bringing down her property value”. Yes folks, we’re talking about the grand tradition of making Jack-O-Lanterns. We’ve all done it, but why? “Because that’s what you do on Halloween” really isn’t an answer, there’s got to be a real reason. Well there is, but it’s not the most believable thing you’ll here today…unless you work with children; children are liars. Anyhow, the concept of carving pumpkins on All Hallows Eve (the orignal name for Halloween) stems from the idea that creating a lantern and leaving it at your door will ward off evil spirits.These lanterns originated in Ireland, and they were originally made from turnips. So now that you know that, the only question that remains is: Why are they called Jack-O-Lanterns? We’ve got an answer for that one too folks…but it’s dumb…interesting and quirky…but really dumb.

“Legend” has it (you know we’re believers folks, but this story is way more folk-tale than mystery) that an Irishman by the name of Jack (see where we’re going with this?) led the life of a scoundrel, and when it came time for that life to come to an end, the devil came to claim his soul. “Just wait one second you red bastard!” said Jack (we may be improving the dialogue a bit), “Ummmmmm, what?” responded the devil. “I get it man, I’m a d-bag, it’s my time to die; fine, but can you at least do me the kindness of letting me have one last drink before you take me away?” said Jack. “Two things,” said the devil, a smile creeeping over his face, “One, what’s a d-bag? Two, sure, why not, but after you finish that drink, your soul is mine.” Jack thanked the devil for his understanding and explained that a “d-bag” was a term that will someday describe almost all of New Jersey, but there was one problem; Jack was broke and couldn’t afford to buy his drink. “Well, a deal is a deal” responded his darkness, “I will help you out, and I will become a piece of gold, with which you can buy a shot of the best whiskey in Ireland”; and he did just that…one problem though. You see, old Jack didn’t get his reputation as a scumbag without being just a little bit crafty, and using a silver cross, he trapped that devil (now in coin form) in his pocket (devil + cross = powerless). So now the devil is pissed, but he’s stuck, so he cuts a deal to leave Jack alone for a year in exchange for his release; he honors the deal once he’s freed and returns a year latter to claim Jack’s soul. Guess what everyone; Jack tricked the devil the second time too, this time with an apple tree. Jack asks for one last apple, devil says he’ll help get it, Jack carves a cross into the tree when the devil climbs up and boom, trapped. This time, Jack trades the devil’s (who seems borderline retarded and/or five years old at this point) freedom for his being left alone for the rest of his life. The devil accepts, but Jack still dies eventually, and when he does he obviously can’t get into heaven, so down to hell he goes, where he finds out that the devil doesn’t forget little things like “being imprisoned twice, once as a nickel”. The devil tells Jack that hell won’t have him, and when Jack asks where he should go, the devil tells him to go wander his drunk keister all over purgatory. Jack agrees, but asks the devil for a light so that can find his way around (hell is hot, but also dark, like the DMX album says). The devil, being the nice guy that he is, throws Jack a burning hot coal from the pits of hell, one that will never burn out. Can you guess what Jack did next? Yup, he stuck the coal in a turnip so that it wouldn’t burn his hands, and spent all of eternity wandering purgatory with only the light from his lantern leading his lost soul…ugh.

We’re sorry to subject you to that one folks, but we spend enough time giving you the scoop on all the scary things out there that might be real; we like to just tell you a tale once in a while. So next time you see a Jack-O-Lantern don’t be scared, because if anything, it’s protecting you from spirits. Even if the story of Jack was true, it wouldn’t be that scary. If we got scared everytime we saw an old drunk wandering around at night, we’d never sleep at our parents’ homes again.


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