Why is carving a pumpkin so important for Halloween? Halloween is a holiday celebrated by America every year on October 31st. Most Halloween traditions include decorating a home with skeletons, witches, bats and pumpkins. You may have attended a Halloween party, where you dress up in costume or have gone trick or treating. Pumpkin carving has been a wonderful family tradition celebrated for generations on Halloween. My Great Grandmother, Mary Darragh, brought the tradition with her over from Ireland and passed it along or our family to share from generation to generation.
In my family, it was important to know the legend behind the Jack O’Lantern. Coming from an Irish and Scottish background, traditions and legends in our family are what we love best. My Great Grandmother shared this story with her daughter and it has been passed down ever since. I feel that this is necessary to know why you’re performing these traditions and what it symbolizes.
The carving of pumpkins is one of the most important Halloween traditions. Pumpkin carving is founded on the story about “Stingy Jack.” Irish legend states that Stingy Jack invited the Devil for a drink. Of course, Jack did not wish to pay for the drinks. They didn’t call him Stingy Jack for nothing! He played a trick on the Devil and convinced him to turn into a coin so that he may pay for their drinks. When the Devil did this, Jack picked up the coin and placed it in his shirt pocket covering it with a silver cross. The cross prevented the Devil from returning to his normal form. After some time, Jack freed the Devil, with the understanding that the Devil could never claim his soul and would leave Jack in peace for one year. After a year, the Devil returned to Jack. Jack again tricked the Devil, this time into climbing a tree to search for fruit. While the Devil was up there, Jack carved a cross into the tree. Jack refused to let the Devil come down unless he promised not to bother him for another ten years.
During this time, Jack passed away. God did not allow Jack into Heaven because he made deals with the Devil. The Devil could not take Jack to Hell, due to his promise to not claim Jack’s soul. So the Devil decided that he would sentence Jack to purgatory with only an ember of coal. The coal was lit with immortal flame and would burn for eternity, providing Jack light for his travels. Jack found a turnip and carved a hole into it, placing the ember inside, making a lantern. Hence the name, Jack O’ Lantern. Legend states that Jack still roams the earth to this day. Of course, upon immigration to the states, many found that the abundance of pumpkins better suited the Jack O’Lantern, then a plain old turnip.
Pumpkin carving now has become both tradition and art. People carve many designs, faces, animals and characteristics on pumpkins. Most don’t even place the candle inside the Jack O’Lantern. Traditionally, the Jack O’Lantern should be placed with a candle inside...