By Holly Ween, Scare Reporter
Rock Star, Cinderella, Casper, Fairytale, Baby Boo, Wee Be Little, Hooligan, Gooligan, & Bumpkin. Ha! I tricked you; these are not costume ideas, they are types of pumpkins! Thanks to Connor Smith at Smith’s Pumpkin Patch in the 3000 block of Foothill Boulevard, my youngest ghost and I learned a ton about the different varieties of pumpkins, and which ones are the best for baking, painting, decorating and, my favorite, carving into jack o’ lanterns.
Jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkins are some of my most beloved things about Halloween, which in our house is all year long. I have them everywhere. This got me thinking ¬– I have loved those carved, smiling, scary glowing faces as long as I can remember, but what did I know about them or their history? So I did a little haunting on the web and was delighted at what I found out!
Americans have been making jack-o’-lanterns for centuries, but the crafting of jack-o’-lanterns originated in Ireland around a folktale about a man named “Stingy Jack.” The tale goes that Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. Jack, being the “stingy” man that he was, did not want to pay for them, so he tricked the Devil into turning himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. When the Devil changed, Jack decided to keep the coin and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back to his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil after he made him promise that he would not bother Jack for one year and if Jack died, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack tricked the Devil again by having him climb up a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack, on the ground, carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for 10 more years.
Jack died shortly after and, as the legend goes, he was not welcomed at the pearly gates and the Devil was not about to welcome Jack to his house, but he did keep his word, and did not to claim his soul. Instead, he sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way for eternity. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since.
The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’ Lantern.”
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. They brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, made perfect jack-o’-lanterns, since they are hollow inside and much easier to carve.
This Halloween, CV Weekly readers, as you gather your ghouls to carve pumpkins, add some spookiness to the fun and tell them the tale of Stingy Jack!