Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Legend of Stingy Jack

Written by Ashley & Jessica

We are well into October now and fall is in full swing.  That means Halloween is just around the corner.  We both love Halloween.  Thinking of Halloween always stirs wonderful memories, from all the cute decorations through our childhood home, to trick or treating and all the costumes and our Halloween party where you can always find the best home made sloppy Joes. 

Something else we both enjoy are the fun stories and legends that surround Halloween and its traditions.  We wanted to share one of those fun stories, just in case you hadn't heard it before. 
I'm sure if asked to think of some of the symbols or icons associated with Halloween one of the first things most people think of is a Jack o'lantern.  But do you know the history behind these iconic pumpkins?  It is believed that the origins of Jack o'lanters come from Ireland and the Legend of Stingy Jack.

There once was a man named Stingy Jack.  Some say he was a thief, others a drunk, but all agree he was stingy.  Near the end of his life he was having a drink when the Devil came to collect his soul.  He asked the Devil if he could have just one more drink.  True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to have to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil, who could take any shape he chose, to turn into a coin Jack could use to pay for the drink.  The devil could then change back and no one would be the wiser.  The devil agreed, but once he turned into a coin Stingy Jack decided to keep the coin instead.  Jack placed the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross which prevented the Devil from changing back to his original form.  Jack eventually freed the Devil, but only after the Devil agreed to not bother Jack for a whole year and would not claim his soul when he died. 
The next year Jack again tricked the Devil, and convinced him to climb into a tree to pick a piece of fruit.  While he was up in the tree, Jack carved the sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down.  Jack did not let him down until the Devil promised Jack he would not bother him for ten more years. 
Soon after Jack died.  As the legend goes, God wouldn't allow such an unsavory and dishonest soul into heaven.  The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him, and keeping to his word not to claim Jack's soul, would not allow Jack into hell.  So he sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way.  Jack put his piece of coal into a carved out turnip and has been seen roaming the Earth with it ever since. 
The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," or "Jack o'Lantern."
In Ireland and Scotland people began to make their own versions of Jack's lantern 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.  Eventually immigrants from these countries brought the Jack o'lantern tradition with them to America.  It was soon discovered that the plentiful pumpkins, which are native to America, made perfect Jack o'lanterns, and the tradition stuck.


What are some of your favorite Halloween traditions?


  1. I've never heard the origin of jack o'lanterm. I love it!

  2. At our house we always have Dinner in a Pumpkin on Halloween night. YUM! :-)

  3. Never heard that tale before, either. Cute and interesting. Thanks for sharing that.



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