The Story of Stingy Jack O’Lantern, & The Origin of Trick-Or-Treat!

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As Halloween draws near, I feel it’d be fun to have a look at the traditions that surround this holiday, and discover how those traditions first began long ago. Haven’t you wondered why we carve pumpkins, and why children (and adults 😉 ) dress up and knock on doors for candy? The answers we shall discover below…

The Story of Jack O’Lantern

Stingy Jack was his name, and playing tricks on people was his game. Nobody in town liked him. His family dreaded whenever he came around, knowing they would have to suffer his devious deeds. And Jack didn’t seem to mind that people despised his presence. He went about drinking and tricking people out of money and playing pranks. Jack even went so far as to trick the devil, one day:

Jack pointed up to an apple, saying how delicious the fruit was, and convinced the devil to climb up the tree and retrieve it for a taste. But as he did so, Jack placed crosses in a circle around the base of the tree. The devil could not touch a cross, and so he was stuck in the tree, seething with anger at the trickster below. Jack told him he would remove the crosses, but only if he made him a promise: A promise that, when Jack died, the devil would not take his soul. The devil promised (no doubt angrily), and so Jack removed the crosses. Jack must have been very proud of himself for getting the devil’s promise, and confident, as he continued to upset people with his mischief and drunkenness and rude behavior. But everything must always come to an end, and so the day came when bad Jack died.

Jack’s soul left his body, and sought the pearly gates of heaven. But he was stopped before he could enter by the angels, who told him that his wicked deeds and unrepentant heart in life would not allow him to come in. Jack was sent away, and came before the gates of hell. The devil kept his promise, however, and would not let Jack enter. Stingy Jack, therefore, found himself stuck in a world of darkness and nothingness, a place between heaven and hell, left to wander for eternity. With him, he had a turnip, because he always kept one with him perhaps for a snack, and now he took it, carved out the inside and made it hollow. He asked for a light, and the devil threw him a burning coal. Jack put the coal in his makeshift turnip lantern, and with it lit his way as he departed to wander through the endless darkness. From then on, he came to be known as Jack of the Lantern, or for short, Jack O’Lantern, who wanders the realm of the undead in the darkness on Earth, especially during Halloween night…

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Origins of Trick Or Treating

I found an article by, who did a lot of digging into the history of the Trick or Treat origins. The tradition began in the Middle Ages, with children who would dress up in costumes as saints, angels and demons, and go from door to door during Hallowmas asking for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers, some said on behalf of the dead. These children were called “soulers.” Here is an old souling song from the 19th century:

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

In case you’re wondering what a soul-cake is, it was a little round, sweet cake that home owners would hand out to these souler children.

Follow the link to read TodayIFoundOut’s article, which talks about how these old traditions led up to the Halloween we now celebrate today!

What do you think of Jack’s story? What Halloween costumes have you worn? (I was Peter Pan once) When you went trick or treating as a kid, what kinds of candy did you most hope you’d get? (I loved Reese’s peanut butter cups. 🙂 )

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13 thoughts on “The Story of Stingy Jack O’Lantern, & The Origin of Trick-Or-Treat!

  1. This was a fun scholastic treat today! Thanks for sharing the story of Jack-O’-Lantern. I always love the stories about tricksters. Haha, gotta be my favorite archetype of all. We should start a revolution of learning this hallowmas song and caroling it about the neighborhood. 😀 I just love the spookiness.

    I dressed up as a dino, a ghostie, Lady Hawk, and Orochimaru. Then there were some in-between costumes I can’t quite remember…

    I loved the Reese’s, too. ❤ I always hoped for those blue vanilla tootsie rolls. When I was little, I didn't realize you could actually, you know, buy them at the store. They were just sort of at people's houses, and sometimes I was lucky enough to sift through the tootsies and
    find one.

    Do you have any fun fall plans for the season?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, caroling the hallowmas song on the streets, we should do that! XD People would not have a clue what we were doing.

      You were Orochimaru? Aww, I have to see a photo of that!

      Unfortunately there was a huge storm here, trees were downed and the power went out Halloween week, so there were no fun things for the season this year.


  2. I’ve never heard the origin story for either Jack O’Lanterns or Trick Or Treating before! Jack’s story is so creepy, but I like it. It’s got a moral to it (unlike so many creepy stories nowadays… I’m looking at you, IT). Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed your post on gargoyles, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Abbey, I’m glad you enjoyed this post! I agree, I much prefer a creepy story that has a lesson involved. I guess that’s why I find folktales so fascinating; there’s always some hidden lesson inside the story.


  3. Both Sting and Peter, Paul, and Mary have nice versions of that Soul Cake song. I always love handing out candy on Halloween, but I guess I love any holiday that involves candy 🙂 I try to have a mix of candy to hand out, but I do always try to include Reese’s cups! So good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll have to find those other versions of the song, now. It’s so fun handing out candy and seeing all of the kids’ costumes! Reese’s are so good that I have to save a bunch for myself; I’m a chocolate lover.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I’ve heard snippets of these origins before, but I really like knowing the entire version of Jack’s story. ^ ^ Very cool!

    Liked by 1 person

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