Why is a Jack-o’-Lantern called a Jack-o’-Lantern?

Jack O Lantern

Stingy Jack and the Devil

The story goes that the Jack-O’-Lantern comes from a legend that goes back hundreds of years in Irish history.

It’s said that 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 made a bargain that if the Devil promised not to take Stingy Jack’s 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.  Ultimate payback! Jack was scared and with nowhere to go he had to wander around in the darkness between Heaven and Hell.

Stingy Jack, Jack-o-Lanterns, and Halloween

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 put 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, is high in vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, and other nutrients like folate, manganese, and omega 3′s.  Pumpkin is filled with the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, which gives it its rich orange color. It can be used many ways 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 aren’t. They have 126 calories in an ounce (about 85 seeds) and 285 calories in a cup.

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