Why Is A Carved Pumpkin A Jack-o’-Lantern?

Jack-O'-Lantern with carved eye


The Legend of The Jack-O’-Lantern 

As the story goes, there was a miserable old drunk named Stingy Jack.   He liked to play tricks on his family, friends — even the Devil —  and he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree.   Once the Devil was up in the tree, Stingy put crosses around the apple tree’s trunk so the Devil couldn’t get down.  He then told the Devil that if he promised not to take Jack’s soul when he died he would remove the crosses and let the Devil down from the tree.

When Jack died, Saint Peter waiting for him 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. So, Stingy Jack then went down to Hell but the Devil wouldn’t take him in either because of what Jack had done to him.  Jack was scared and with nowhere to go he had no choice but to wander around in the darkness between Heaven and Hell.

Stingy Jack asked the Devil how he could stop wandering around 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, had been 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.”

And so goes the legend of the Jack-O’-Lantern that dates back hundreds of years in Irish history.

Halloween And The Jack-O’-Lantern

Halloween, or the Hallow E’en as it’s called 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 such as folate, manganese, and omega 3′s.  Pumpkin is filled with the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, which gives it its rich orange hue. It’s versatile and can be added to baked goods and blended with many different kinds of food. When pureed pumpkin is used to replace some or all of the fat in baked goods, it significantly decreases the calories while keeping the cake, muffin, or other baked good moist.

Pumpkin seeds are delicious and are a good source of iron, copper, and zinc.  Although pumpkin flesh 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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