The History of Halloween:

By Jenine Ikeler
October 26, 2000

Jenine J. Ikeler

by Jenine Ikeler

Ever since I was a child my first memory of Halloween was going to the pumpkin patch and searching for the perfect pumpkin that would grace the front steps of my house. I would try so hard to be very detailed when carving the eyes, nose and crooked mouth. After my pumpkin creation my mother would then make pumpkin pie.

After remembering this particular fond moment of my childhood. I pondered one question how did the pumpkin become associated with Halloween? Well the answer I found is in the tale of a man named Jack.

According to Irish folklore a man name Jack, well known for his drunkenness and quick temper got very drunk at a local pub on All Hallows Eve. Jack was on the brink of death when the Devil appeared to claim Jack’s soul. Jack, wanting to live, begged the Devil to let him have one more drink before he died. The Devil agreed to Jack’s plea. Jack was short of money and asked the Devil if he would not mind assuming the shape of a coin so he could pay for the drink. After the transaction the Devil could change back.

The Devil agreed.

Jack immediately grabbed the coin and shoved it into his wallet. So the Devil would now be imprisoned in the wallet. Jack agreed to let the Devil out from his wallet if the Devil promised not to bother Jack for a year.

The Devil agreed.

Realizing he had to make this year count. He decided to change his life around and began to be good to his wife and children. And even attended church and gave to charity.

Eventually Jack regressed into his old ways.

The next All Hallows Eve Jack was on his way home and the Devil appeared. Once again Jack distracted the Devil by pointing to a nearby apple tree. Jack convinced the Devil to get an apple from the tree. Jack took a knife and carved a cross into the tree. Tapped once again the Devil howled to be released and told Jack he would give him 10 years of his life in exchange for his release. Jack on the other hand, insisted the Devil never bother him again.

Again the Devil agreed.

Almost a year later Jack’s body, unable to keep up with his evil ways, gave out and he died. When Jack tried to enter Heaven he was told that because of his meanness he would not be allowed into Heaven. When Jack attempted to gain entry onto Hell, the Devil refused Jack admission. However, being the generous Devil he was he threw a piece of coal to Jack to help him find his way in the dark. Jack put the piece of coal into a turnip and it became know as a Jack O’Lantern. On All Hallows Eve you can still see Jack’s flame burning dimly as he searches for a home.

Interesting story right?

You might ask how do pumpkins fit into this? See Jack O’Lanterns were used as festival lights for Halloween. This custom descends from the Irish who used to carve out beets or turnips for lanterns. On Halloween these lights represented the souls of the dead or goblins freed from the dead. When the Irish emigrated to America they could not find many turnips to carve the Jack O’Lanterns but they did find a ton of pumpkins.

For more information on this and other scary stories to get you in the Halloween spirit visit

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Jenine Ikeler

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