What is it about the sight of plump pumpkins in an autumn garden that so gladdens the heart? At summer's end I crave the golds and oranges...the changing colors. The sky seems bluer and the light of the sun slants golden across the face of the mountains. In the farmers markets, bins and tables are piled high with pumpkins of every shape and size.
This morning the air was a bit crisper and I got the sudden craving for my mother's pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Pumpkin recipes are all over Pinterest...fancy cheesecakes and even Pumpkin Snickerdoodles! In my sentimental heart, nothing could ever take the place of Mom's cookies. I shared the recipe last fall when my blog was new. Stay tuned...you'll find it here again after the story of "Stingy Jack."
Halloween originated in the Celtic lands of Ireland and Scotland.
The phrase "Jack o' lantern" was first used to describe a mysterious light seen flickering over the marshes at night. When approached...it always seems to be just out of reach. The phenomenon is also known as "will o' the wisp."
I had always heard that many of our Halloween customs originated in Ireland...especially that of the Jack o' lantern. So I thought I would find out a little of the history of our pumpkin friend. I found the legend on Stingy Jack on many websites, but the story on History.com was a little more complete. The following info is taken from the site...
The Legend of "Stingy Jack"
People have been making jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack 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 with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."
A traditional Irish turnip jack-o'-lantern from the early 20th century. Scary, isn't it?
From the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.
From the legend of Stingy Jack came the Irish tradition of placing Jack- o'- lanterns made of turnips and other vegetables in windows or by doors on Halloween. The Jack-o'-lanterns are meant to scare away Stingy Jack and all the other spirits that are said to walk the earth on that night. It wasn't until the tradition was brought to the United States by immigrants that pumpkins were used to make them. I read a comment on a blog from Scottish reader who said that until a few years ago, pumpkins weren't as readily available as they are here. He said that many people still carve faces into turnips on Halloween. He admits that pumpkins are much easier to carve!
Modern Turnip Jack o' lantern.
Well...that's the story of Jack o'lantern. I had never heard the story of Stingy Jack. I have always loved Halloween but never took the time to learn more about it. There is a lot more information about the Celtic celebration of "Samhain." It might be fun to do a little more research...after I make my cookies of course!
This is the prettiest pumpkin...makes me want to bake!
Mom's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies...recipe makes a lot!
3 Cups Sugar
1 16 oz. Can Pumpkin
2 Tsp. Vanilla
2 Tsp. Cinnamon
2 Tsp. Nutmeg
5 Cups Flour
2 Tsp. Soda
1 Tsp. Salt
2 Tsp. Baking Powder
Nuts and Chocolate Chips (As many as pleases you!)