31st Oct 2023
The traditional colours of red and green are always associated with Christmas, just as much as the familiar black and orange pumpkin colours are associated with Halloween, but why are pumpkins part of Halloween celebrations?
To answer this we need to go right back to the how Halloween started, although it is traditionally an American holiday that some may say has been over commercialised it was actually Irish immigrants that first took Halloween to America. Over 700,000 of them were displaced due to the potato famine in the nineteenth century. Part of the Irish Halloween celebrations was the Jack O Lantern, which was traditionally carved from a turnip, potato or beet.
The story behind the Jack O Lantern is that an Irishman named jack one night got very drunk one, so drunk in fact that his soul began to leave his body. The Devil noticed how drunken Jack was and saw an opportunity to claim a victim, and came down to earth.
Jack obviously desperate to avoid his fate begged the devil to allow him one last drink. The devil conceded but jack only had one sixpence to pay for the drink which was not enough, so he asked the devil to assume the shape of a sixpence so he could have enough to pay for the drink. The devil could then change back when the drink had been paid for. But when the devil changed in to a sixpence jack grabbed the coin and put the devil in his wallet which had a holy cross on it, unable to escape Jack made a deal with the devil to release him if he left jack alone for one year.
Over the next year Jack tried his best to change his drunken ways but was unable to and the next year was again visited by the devil demanding his soul. Desperate to try and avoid his fate for a second time he suggested to the devil that he may want to try one the delicious apples handing from a nearby tree. Jack offered the devil to climb on his shoulders so he could reach the apple, but when the devil was in the tree Jack pulled out a knife and carved a holy cross in to its bark so that the devil was unable to climb down. The devil offered him 10 years of peace if Jack would let him out of the tree but jack refused and wanted the devil to never bother him again, the devil resentfully agreed and jack went back to his old ways.
Before the next Halloween came Jack died and went to the gate of heaven where he was turned away for all of the meanness he had shown in his life, so Jack was left with no choice but to go to hell. When he got there he was also turned away by the devil who had promised never to bother him again, he tossed jack a lump of coal from hell to help him find his way back which jack then placed inside a turnip. Jack’s soul has been wondering ever since and people now have Jack o Lanterns in their porches and windows in case Jack passes in the hope that jack would take the light instead of bothering any one.
That is the story of the Jack o Lantern but why are they now made from pumpkins instead of turnips? Well that is a simple answer, have you ever tried to carve a turnip? Pumpkins are much softer and easier to carve and they are also in season at this time of year. Ever since people have been carving ever more intricate designs in pumpkins and Halloween
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