Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Glowing Jack-O'-Lantern

The jack-o'-lantern is easily the most recognized and used symbol of Halloween in modern America. The name originates from an old Irish folk tale telling of Stingy Jack and his encounter with the Devil of which there are various versions.
The term jack-o'-lantern first appeared in the mid-17th century and originally meant a night watchman or man with a lantern. It was also used to describe a strange light flickering over the marshes of Ireland. If approached, this light would advance and was always out of reach. This was also known as the will-o'-the-wisp or ignis fatuus.
The Irish Potato Famine of the mid-1800's prompted a massive immigration to the Americas. With the Irish, came their beliefs and traditions, including carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. The Irish discovered that turnips were not readily available in the Americas and instead turned to the larger pumpkin yielding our modern day jack-o'-lantern.

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