Pumpkin or turnip
The ghostly figure of Jack O’ Lantern is an evil spirit of the Irish folklore tradition.
Many stories are related to him as Jackie the lantern, Johnny the Lantern, Jack O’ the lantern and Stingy Jack.
On the night of Samhain, the ancients believed the dividing line between the world of the living and the world of the dead became so thin that the evil spirits from the Otherworld could come back, mingle with people and steal their souls.
Among the evil spirits was Stingy Jack, and here is his story based on an old Irish folk tale.
According to the tale, Stingy Jack was a lazy blacksmith, and people didn’t like him. He used to rob them.
One night he invited the Devil to have a drink with him. Sure enough, being stingy, he didn’t want to pay and, he managed somehow to trick the Devil, persuading him to turn himself into a coin to pay for their drinks.
The moment the Devil turned himself into a coin, Stingy Jack grabbed the coin and put it in his pocket close to a silver cross. The Devil was trapped there and couldn’t change back to his real form.
Eventually, he set free the Devil under the promise he would not claim his soul if he should die within one year.
One year later, Stingy Jack met and tricked the Devil again. This time, the Devil climbed on an apple tree to pick some fruits. Quickly Stingy Jack carved a cross into the bark and let him go only after he promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Some years later, Stingy Jack died. God would not allow such a villain into heaven and neither the Devil into hell. So Jack had nowhere to go. The Devil sent him into the darkness and gave him burning coal to light his way.
Stingy Jack carved a turnip and placed the burning coal in it and, since then, he roamed the Earth holding the turnip in front of him.
And this is how Stingy Jack became Jack O’ Lantern.
But now the question is: Why do we put pumpkins beside our front door at Halloween?
The ancients were very scared of the evil spirits and tried to work out strategies to protect themselves and their homes at Samhain. They thought to use the effigy of the scariest evil of all: Jack o’Lantern and his carved turnip!
So this is the reason why we put carved pumpkins illuminated by a candle or a tea-light at Halloween beside our door.
Centuries later, when Irish emigrants took this tradition with them in the US, they found the native pumpkins were easier to carve so that they started to use them instead of turnips.
Eventually, this new tradition travelled back to Ireland.
So, this Halloween, grab your pumpkin and carve it, put a candle into it, place it beside your door and …
Sleep tight, you and your home are protected!
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