Halloween pumpkins are commonly referred to as a Jack O’Lantern. While most people know that, did you also know What is Jack O’Lantern and It’s Origin? The history of the name is actually a rather gruesome tale of a man trapped between worlds.
Jack O’Lantern – Origin and History of the Name
Legend has it that there was an Irishman who was a ne’er-do-well. This man’s name was Jack and he was known to be a drunkard. He apparently spent a lot of time in the taverns of the day. He was seldom seen doing any more work than it took to earn the money for his next bottle of strong drink
But as is often the case, Jack wasn’t stupid or even really bad. He was just self-centered and thought of little past his next drink
The story goes that Jack was walking home one night – drunk most likely – when he encountered the Devil Himself. The Devil tempted Jack, though the stories of exactly what was offered vary from one account to another. Apparently, the incentive for Jack to give up his soul wasn’t sufficient and he decided to turn the offer down.
But how does one escape from the Devil? Jack, cunning fellow that he was, lured the Devil up a tree. Then Jack carved an image on the trunk of the tree and the Devil was trapped.
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Jack agreed to let him down. But only after the Devil agreed to never again tempt Jack. The story might have ended there, but it doesn’t.
As it turns out Jack lived out the rest of his life, continuing his drunkard ways. When he died, he was denied entry into Heaven because of it. But the Devil took one look at Jack and also denied him entry into Hell. In a rare show of compassion, the Devil did give Jack a chunk of burning coal or wood to help light his way.
To help the ember last longer, Jack carved out a turnip and put the glowing piece inside. And that – if you believe the legend – is the history of the name “Jack O’Lantern.”
Steps to Cleaning / Preparing / Carving Pumpkin for Halloween
The first step to cleaning / preparing / carving a pumpkin for a Jack O’Lantern is to clean it out at least one day ahead of time. Start by cutting a “plug” from the top of the pumpkin around the stem area big enough for your hand. Cutting from the top allows an escape for the heat from the candle.
We have shared various Pumpkin Carving Stencils, Design and Ideas for Halloween.
Remember to cut with your knife angled toward the center of the pumpkin so that the cap doesn’t fall back into the pumpkin when you replace it. If you have trouble with this step, you can insert a few toothpicks into the pumpkin to hold the cap in place.
Remove all the seeds and loose pulp by scraping with a large spoon (wooden spoons work well). This is a messy task so be prepared. Scrape areas that you plan to carve more thoroughly for easier carving.
If you use an electric light instead of a candle, cut a hole in the lower back of the pumpkin for the cord to run through.
All that’s left after that is to carve your face or design. You can find patterns or let your imagination run wild. You may opt to use a sharp knife but you can also purchase pumpkin carving saws and kits for more detailed patterns.
Halloween Pumpkins – To Carve or Not To Carve
More and more people are eliminating the steps to cleaning preparing and carving a pumpkin for Halloween. Time is one of the biggest factors but longevity is another. A pumpkin that hasn’t been cut will naturally last longer. With that in mind, you may decide that painting a face is a better choice.
Whether you believe the story of Jack and the history of the Jack O’Lantern or not, you have to agree that it’s a great story. So this holiday season, as you prepare to choose your Halloween pumpkin and the face design for your Halloween pumpkin, take a minute to remember Jack.