SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The carving and lighting of pumpkins is an Irish tradition that stems back to a Celtic folktale about a man named ‘Stingy Jack’ who tricked the devil more than once.
Legend says that Stingy Jack asked the devil to have a drink with him, but because Jack was so stingy he didn’t want to pay for the devil’s drink, so he asked the devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack would use to buy their drinks.
Once the devil turned himself into a coin, Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross. He didn’t spend the devil, but the devil couldn’t switch back into his rightful form because of that cross.
Jack freed the devil later but under one condition: the devil couldn’t bother Jack for a year. The deal was that if Jack died, the devil couldn’t claim his soul.
The next year found Jack at it again.
He asked the devil to climb a tree to pick a piece of fruit, and when that ole’ devil went up that tree Jack took out a knife and quickly carved a cross into the tree’s bark. There wasn’t a dang thing the devil could do to help himself, so Lucifer agreed that he would not bother Jack for ten more years if Jack turned him loose.
Not too long after Jack and the devil made their bargain, Jack died. God didn’t want to let Jack into heaven. The Devil couldn’t allow Jack into hell because of the bargain. And so the devil gave Jack a single burning coal and sent him out into the darkness.
Well, ole Jack couldn’t carry that hot coat with his bare hands, so he carved the insides out of a turnip and put the coal inside.
In both Ireland and Scotland, people began making their own versions of the Jack-of-the-lantern, which eventually became known as the Jack O’Lantern. The O’ makes sense, too, since it is a common and uniquely Irish prefix.
O’ is a derivative of the Gaelic word “au” which means “grandson of.”
So when you carve your Jack O’Lantern this year, know that your lantern is (traditionally speaking) the great-great-great-great (etc…) grandson of Stingy Jack’s carved turnip.