A Spooky Jack-o’-Lantern Tale

A Jack-o’-Lantern Legend

The Jack-O’-Lantern comes from a legend that goes back hundreds of years in Irish history. As the story goes, a miserable old drunk named Stingy Jack, who liked to play tricks on his family, friends, and even the Devil, tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree.   Stingy Jack then put crosses around the apple tree’s trunk so the Devil couldn’t get down — but told the Devil that if he promised not to take his soul when he died he would remove the crosses and let the Devil down.

When Jack died, Saint Peter, at the pearly gates of Heaven, told him that he couldn’t enter Heaven because he was mean, cruel, and had led a miserable and worthless life. Stingy Jack then went down to Hell but the Devil wouldn’t take him in.  Jack was scared but with nowhere to go he had to wander around in the darkness between Heaven and Hell.

When Stingy Jack asked the Devil how he could get out without a light to see, the Devil threw him an ember from the flames of Hell. One of Jack’s favorite foods, which he always had when he could steal one, was a turnip.  So he put the ember into a hollowed out turnip and from that day on, Stingy Jack, without a resting place, roamed the earth lighting his way with his “Jack-O’-Lantern.”

All Hallows Eve

Halloween, or the Hallow E’en in Ireland and Scotland, is short for All Hallows Eve, or the night before All Hallows. On All Hallows Eve the Irish made Jack-O’-Lanterns by hollowing out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes, and beets and then putting lights in them to keep away both the evil spirits and Stingy Jack.  In the 1800′s when Irish immigrants came to America, they discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve, and the pumpkin became the Jack-o’-lantern.

If You Want To Eat Your Pumpkin . . .

Jumping from legend to fact:  pumpkins are Cucurbitaceae, a family of vegetables that includes cucumbers and melons. They are fat free and can be baked, steamed, or canned.

One cup of pumpkin has about 30 calories and is high in vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and has other nutrients like folate, manganese, and omega 3′s.  Pumpkin is filled with the anti-oxidant beta-carotene which gives it its rich orange hue. It is versatile and can be added to baked goods and blended with many foods.

Pumpkin seeds are delicious and are a good source of iron, copper, and zinc.  Although pumpkin is low in calories, pumpkin seeds are not.   They have 126 calories in an ounce (about 85 seeds) and 285 calories in a cup.

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