Stingy Jack, the character from an old Irish folk tale, was the first man to carve a pumpkin on Halloween. It was actually a turnip rather than a pumpkin that started the tradition of creating Jack-o-lanterns. Therefore, imaginary Stingy Jack can be perceived as the man who invented Halloween tradition as we know today.
Story of Stingy Jack
According to myth, once upon a time, in a little village in the old Ireland, a boy was born. It was not a regular boy, but a child with a very special gift. His inborn ability had nothing to do with magic, great strength, or courage. Jack’s gift was a word and gained him the nickname of a silver tongue. It was believed that Jack could literally talk his way out of any situation. The only thing that exceeded his talent with words was his ability to pour beer inside his belly. He was able to drink for twenty people and pay for none. Yes. Jack was both a drunkard and a trickster. He lived a life of joy by traveling across the country and switching taverns. When he came out of the last tavern without spending a coin people thought that it is over for him. The word of a Stingy Jack head spread far and everybody wanted to retaliate to the trickster. But it was far from over.
Jeck is Back
Jeck just went to the first tavern where he owed money and managed to convince the owner to pour him a free beer instead of beating the hell out of him. Jack persuaded everybody that he is getting married for the daughter of a rich duke who will, without any doubt, pay all his debts with interest. After his second circle ended people thought that this time the end of Jack is near. However, once again, a famous drunkard just went to the first tavern and said he came because he wants to work until he pays out for what he owes. Again, owners believed him and poured down beer and food. The fourth time he appeared as a druid. And no man wanted to beat or enforce druid on anything. The fifth time Jack said he was infected with a deadly disease and that it is his last night. It seemed that there was no end to his stories. People started saying that there is some dark force carved into this trickster who could even trick the devil himself. These rumors managed to go below the ground into the underworld and eventually reach the prince of darkness. Devil did not believe that it is possible for a human being to possess that degree of maliciousness. However, as time passed stories only grown stronger and the devil decided to check Jack out for himself and collect his soul. And so, one night, the prince of darkness raised from the underworld, went to a road leading from the tavern Jack was in, laid down, and pretended to be dead.
Jack And the Devil
Midnight had long passed when Jack finished with his drinking. This time he said he was on a pilgrimage to repent his sins and persuaded everyone it would be sacrilege to stand in a way of future monk. As he sauntered along the path, Jeck stumbled upon what seemed to be a corpse. Just a few moments later Devil stood up and looked at Jack’s eyes. He peaked into his soul and saw that all rumors were true. Then he informed trickster that his time has come. Jack somberly accepted his fate but begged for one last wish. He said he would want to, before leaving this world, at least once in his lifetime, pay his bills. And of course, drink one last beer. They went back to the tavern. Devil ordered twenty beers for Jack. Right before dawn, all glasses were empty. Devil told him its time to go. Jack agreed but said that he has no money. He asked the devil to transform into the coin so he can pay. Devil accepted his proposition and turned himself into one big gold coin. However, instead of paying, Jack put the gold coin in his pocket with the crucifix. This way the Devil lost his powers including the ability to change his shape. He was permanently trapped in the form of the coin. He had to strike a bargain. Devil wasn’t allowed to touch Jack for the next ten years. And so it was. Jack continued his way of living. But time flies and a decade passed quickly.
The Devil Returns
It was noon when Devil appeared in the tavern’s garden just when Jack was going out. He crossed the trickster’s path and informed him that his time is over. Jack agreed to come peacefully but he had one last wish. At first, the devil didn’t want to hear anything about it but Jack managed to persuade the dark prince that no harm can come from eating a single apple. Devil decided to please Jack once more. However, drunkard had another request. He said to Devil that the age had pressured his spine and that he cannot climb on the tree to pick the fruit. It was up to the devil to do it for him. The dark prince agreed but as soon as he picked the fruit and looked down he realized that he had been tricked once again. While he was climbing Jack set a circle of crucifixes around the tree and the devil wasn’t able to come down. Once again the lord of hell was forced to make a deal. This time it was to leave Jack for good. After quite a time spent in arguing the devil agreed never to touch Jack’s malevolent soul. And so, without a single worry on his mind, Jack continued his way of living believing that nothing bad was ever going to happen to him.
The Death of Jack
But let us not forget that time flies. Jack’s final hour came as well. When he died he didn’t think of hell as devil could do him no harm. Without hesitation, Jack went towards the pearly gates. Soon, he encountered Saint Peter who didn’t even want to take a look at the list with names that earned the right to enter. And there was no way that Jack could induce Saint Peter to even start a discussion with him. It was the first time in both life and death that he encountered a person he could not manipulate. Having nowhere else to go Jack went to hell. But the devil couldn’t let him in as when celestial beings give their word to human beings it cannot be broken. Jack was doomed to spend eternity roaming in the darkness between two worlds. Yet the devil found pity on him and gave him a little ember to light his way. In order to preserve flames, Jack took a turnip and carved a whole where he put the fire. It is how the first carving of turnips started the whole Halloween tradition.
How Did Pumpkins Become the Part of Halloween?
In Ireland, people used to carve turnips. However, after the great migration of Irishmen to America during the 19th century, pumpkins found their way into the tradition. The soils of the New World were plentiful with pumpkins which were bigger and much easier to carve and keep the flames burning from inside. As for the Jack-o-lanterns and their meaning, they are made to look scary in order to repel the stingy Jack. Since on Halloween night, the veil between two worlds was so tin, nobody wanted to have Stingy Jack coming to their houses and interfering in their everyday jobs. It is also the reason why Jack-o-lanterns are positioned on doorsteps and windows.