A Halloween History? The Story of Jack O’Lantern

October 8, 2009 - 7:35 pm 180 Comments

A Brief History of Halloween:

A  Children’s Message:  The Story of Jack O’ Lantern

What  day is today?   ” Halloween!” Who is going out soon to do trick or treating?

Did you know that such an idea as trick or treating is a very new one? That it was NEVER done before W.W.II? Think about that, since we all know that Halloween is a very old, even ancient holiday. ….

A long, long time ago, a thousand years or more, there was a tribe of people that were called the Celts. (Kelts) They lived on the British Isles- England, Scotland, and Ireland….

Their religious leaders or priests were known as druids, and their church was based on learning lessons from Nature, and the changing seasons.  Each season had a holiday or holy day connected to it- some of these special days were happy ones, and some were sad ones. There was a sad one that fell on October 31st, called Samhain, (Sow wayne)  which was the Celtic New Year’s  Eve….

This was the day of Judgment. The Lord of Death, Samhain, would decide the fate of anyone who had died that year, and offer them either happiness or punishment. It was a night when all the souls could walk about like ghosts. Because the souls were afraid of harsh judgment, some tried to take over  living people and they tried to possess them! So people would build large bonfires for protection, for you see, dead souls were cold and like moths drawn to warmth, they would harmlessly perish in the bonfire’s flames!

Some people would dress up like the family members who had died, and then go out and call on their relatives- to scare them into giving them more food, or they threatened to stay as guests for a whole year! When the Romans conquered England, they added new events to the old Halloween holiday that they called Pomona. They added the extra food to the festival- they added apples, nuts, and pumpkins! They also added fun, games, contests and prizes!

Then as the years went on, the Christians arrived in Britain, and they tried to end or stamp out this festival… When they finally realized that they couldn’t they decided to change it so that it was more in line with their religious teachings… They allowed the games on October 31st to continue and called it All Hallows Eve, or the night before All Saints Day. They conceded or gave in to the idea that people need to have fun so they decide to try to control their mischief before the somber days of fasting and prayer. Much like Mardi Gras, before Ash Wednesday, we were permitted Halloween before All Saint’s Day.

When Halloween came to America, with the British immigrants, we see a continuance of holding a “mischief night” among the Puritans. All the children were allowed to play innocent pranks, teases, and stunts… Two favorite ones from those days were unhinging people’s doors and tipping over the outhouses! (Vacant, I hope!)

Among the many stories and retold legends of Halloween is the tale of Jack O Lantern…  Who knows what a Jack O Lantern is? Did you ever cut or carve one? Did anyone ever explain to you what it means?

Well, here is the real story…. Or at least the legend of jack O ‘Lantern….

There once was a big, mean, selfish and tricky man named Jack. He was always greedy; He always took too much food, drink, money, toys, and kept them all for himself! One day, Jack ran into the Devil, who warned him about continuing in his evil or selfish ways. The Devil was sitting in a large tree, and was talking down to Jack.  ….

After listening, Jack came up with a plan to scare the Devil himself! He took out his knife, and carved a large cross in the trunk of the tree, and when the devil saw it, he let out a yell! The Devil said, I am trapped, and I can’t get out of the tree!

Jack smirked, for he believed that he tricked the Devil and pulled a fast one on him. Then the devil begged Jack to scratch out the cross, so he could climb down… Jack refused! The Devil pleaded with him, and Jack said I will do it only if the Devil promised not to punish him or keep him in Hell after he died. Reluctantly, the Devil agreed, and Jack scratched out the cross, and the Devil climbed down and went away…

Some years pass… And Jack continued in his selfish ways… He was convinced that no harm would come to him after he died, because of the Devil’s promise… Then when Jack died, something strange and unexpected happened!

First, God saw Jack’s soul and reviewed his awful life and quickly sent him away from Heaven and down into Hell. There, Jack met the Devil again, and he reminded him of his promise… The Devil was angry!  And he threw a flaming coal at him! Jack was still eating at the time, and had hollowed out a turnip.

As he was running away, Jack caught the glowing coal in the hollowed out turnip, and when he returned to Earth, looking for food and shelter, he found that no one would take him in… So Jack had to wander, and scrounge for food, and he had to walk from place to place… Forever…. Lonely and hungry. The people could always see him coming, because that Devil’s glowing coal never went out, and that the Devil’s light followed him everywhere, and on Halloween, we can still see Jack coming, and we can lock our doors!

So Be It!

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