An old Irish folk tale of ‘Jack’, a cruel and miserable man started the tradition of our modern day Jack-O-Lantern. Jack was stingy, mean and played tricks on many people. He even tricked the devil! Once, Jack made the devil promise not to take his soul when he died before he would release the trapped devil from a trick. Many years later, Jack died. When he got to heaven, the gate keeper told him he had been far too mean and cruel to enter and he was sent to the devil. The devil kept his word and didn’t take Jack’s soul either. Instead, he gave Jack a hot coal and forced him on his way to search for a final resting place. This made him wandering Jack with the lantern.
During this same time, it was common practice for Irish farmers to hollow out turnips, rutabagas and potatoes to place lights in them for lanterns during harvest time. When the Irish farmers carried them around at night, the people would say it was ‘Jack’ with his lantern.
Upon arriving in the states, Irish immigrants discovered how plentiful and large the pumpkin was and began hollowing them out to use for their harvest night lights. They even used them to ward off evil spirits on All Hallows Eve, calling them Jack-O-Lanterns.
In 1892 the mayor of Atlanta hosted a prominent Halloween party. Drawing on Irish tradition, the mayor’s wife had pumpkins carved with faces, lit and placed around the party for decorative lights. This was how the Jack-O-Lantern officially became a Halloween decoration in our culture and has been ever since.
Carry on the Jack-O-Lantern tradition with our free download coloring page. When the kids go to school, hang him in a new spot. When they discover he’s moved, share the legend with them!