How the Jack O'Lantern Got Its Name
(an Irish Folk Tale)
There was once a very old, miserly man named Jack. He was even more
miserly and selfish than Scrooge. No one in the town liked him at all,
which just made him more bitter and miserly.
Well, one day, Jack took a walk out to a nearby woods and proceeded to
take a nap under a tree. Suddenly, Jack awoke to find the devil sitting
next to him smiling evilly. The devil had long been following Jack's
selfish and greedy ways and wanted to make a bargain for Jack's soul.
Well, of course Jack was terrified of this prospect, but you don't get
rich by not using your head, so Jack quickly formed a plan.
Jack told the devil that he couldn't make deals on an empty stomach, so
would the devil please climb the tree and get him a piece of fruit. The
Devil agreed and climbed the tree. Once up in the tree, Jack took out a
knife and carved a cross into the bark of a tree. Now as everyone
knows, the devil can't pass over the sign of the cross, so the devil was
stuck up in the tree indefinitely. The devil was (needless to say)
furious with Jack and threatened Jack terribly. Jack said that HE would
offer the devil a deal: If the Devil promised never, in anyway to try
and take Jack's soul, he would scratch out the cross so the devil could
get down. The Devil didn't like this at all, but neither did he like
the prospect of being up a tree indefinitely, so the devil grudgingly
agreed to Jack's terms. So saying, Jack scratched away the cross and
let the devil down. The devil then vanished.
Well, Jack died eventually, and his spirit went to heaven, but upon
reaching the Gates to Heaven, his way was barred by Saint Peter. Saint
Peter said that a man who had led such a narrow and uncharitable life
could not be permitted entrance to Heaven. Jack was shocked, and he
begged and pleaded with Saint Peter to let him in, but still he was
Accepting his fate, Jack turned and proceeded to the only other place
that his soul could go, so he proceeded to Hell. Well, when he got to
the Gates of Hell, the devil was there. When Jack asked admittance, the
Devil mockingly told him that under different circumstances Jack could
have entered, but he reminded Jack of the deal they had made. So
sayingly, Jack could not stay in Hell, either. Jack was had no place to
go, and realized with horror that he must walk the Earth (in purgatory)
Well, since damned souls cannot be abroad during the light of day, they
must walk the Earth at night. So Jack's soul wandered the Earth looking
for a place to rest. Especially on Halloween, which you know is slang
for "All Hallow's Eve", the night all souls of the dead roam the earth.
Well, Jack wanted to light his way on his endless search, so he dug up a
large turnip, cut out holes in it, and he placed a lighted candle inside
of it, making it into a lantern. He then went forth, into the night
mists searching for a place that his soul may rest.
And that is why we call it to this day, a Jack O' Lantern (meaning: the
Lantern of Jack), and why we see it every Halloween.
It is also said that lighting the Jack O' Lantern, and placing it in
your window, helps light the way for all the lost and wandering souls on
this particular night.
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