Many of us have been carving pumpkins as a Halloween tradition for as long as we can remember. But why do we do it? “I have absolutely no idea,” freshman Brian Thomas said. “I couldn’t even begin to tell you why… that’s pathetic!” As told by the History Channel, the Pumpkin Nook and several other Halloween-type portals of information, the story behind carving pumpkins is a little more elaborate and spooky than expected.
“There once was a man named Stingy Jack. Stingy Jack was an ornery old man who liked to play tricks on everybody. He even liked to play tricks with the Devil. One day, Stingy Jack tricked the Devil into climbing up a tall tree, and then we wouldn’t let him come down. He made the Devil agree that if he let him down, the Devil would never let Jack into hell. So the Devil agreed.
“Many years later, Jack died. When he got up to the pearly gates of heaven, Saint Peter decided that Jack wasn’t going to be allowed in because he had been too grumpy and mean in his life on Earth. So Jack decided to go ask the Devil to let him into hell. Surprisingly enough, the Devil refused, keeping his word from the previous years. Jack became scared, because now he had to wander for the rest of his days between heaven and hell, and it was dark. The Devil gave him a piece of glowing ember from the fire to light his way. Jack put his ember in a carved out turnip, his favorite food to steal in life. It is said that even now, Stingy Jack still wanders between heaven and hell in the dark with his glowing turnip.”
The Irish were afraid of Stingy Jack, so they decided to carve out turnips and put candles in them to scare him away at night. If a house had a turnip with a light in it, it was thought that the spirit of Stingy Jack couldn’t get into the house, and the people inside were safe. In the 1800s Irish immigrants to America found pumpkins and decided they were much easier to carve, so that’s where the switch happened.
The tradition of carving pumpkins has been passed down for centuries and it’s amazing that we still practice this tradition. “Every Halloween my family gets together and carves tons of pumpkins and we put them out on our front step for the trick-or-treaters. It’s one of my favorite traditions,” freshman Alyssa Duren said. “I wish we could do it more than once a year!”
Although celebrating Halloween with Jack O’ Lanterns is a fun tradition that many students have grown up with, living in a college dorm can make carving pumpkins a little more difficult. “Maintenance hates it,” Fern RD Lisa Barber said. “Pumpkins get mushy and soft and start to stain the carpet.” If Halloween just wouldn’t be the same without that scary-faced Jack O’ Lantern, be sure to put a paper plate or towel underneath your pumpkin to prevent it from staining the carpet – and be sure to throw it out if it starts to get soft.
Feel free to carve away at the orange flesh of your Pumpkinland purchase and come Halloween night, be sure to remember the story of Stingy Jack.