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People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween in Ireland for centuries. It’s said that this originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the legend , Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. Stingy Jack was really mean and didn’t want to pay for his drink, then went on to cheat him and a row broke out for which the Devil never forgave him. Afterwards Jack spent the rest of his life living a bad life and cheating people as he went along.
After Jack died God would not allow such an unsavoury figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him would not allow Jack into hell. Banished from both heaven and hell Jack was sent off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then simply “Jack O’ Lantern.”
In Ireland and Scotland people began to make their own versions of Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. Immigrants from Ireland that came to America and the new world brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns as they were larger and far easier to carve.
Nowadays it’s the pumpkin that is used to make a jack o’ lantern. Interestingly in the museum of county life in County Mayo we can still see original carved turnips from long ago. I think that you will agree they look really spooky !
There are many other traditions around Halloween , we all know about the lighting of a bonfire and “Trick or Treating”.
In addition, there are many other popular Halloween games including Apple bobbing . When it comes to bobbing, apples are put floating into a large basin of water and you must try to grab one by using only your teeth – for sure you will get a good soaking as you try this ! It’s also believed that if you put the apple you bite under your pillow the same night you will dream of your future lover.
Another way of finding your future spouse is to peel an apple in one go. If successfully done the single apple peel can be dropped on the floor to reveal the initials of the person you’re going to marry.
In Ireland if you want to know your future than you’ll have to bake a typical Irish barnbrack with various objects baked into the fruit loaf, including of course a ring. This is a traditional game and the hidden objects signify different things: A ring means marriage, a coin – wealth, rag – poverty, and a thimble means you’ll be an old maid!
I hope that you have a lovely Halloween celebration with lots of treats.
With best wishes from Ireland,
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