Autumn is well and truly here. The leaves have turned stunning shades of red and orange, there’s a nip in the air and our thoughts are turning to the end of month when things get spooky with Halloween. Carving scary faces into pumpkins and illuminating them from the inside has become something of a Halloween tradition and we were curious as to how this came about.
According to Irish folklore, Jack (also referred to as Stingy Jack) was a blacksmith – a somewhat foul-mouthed drunk and disreputable miser by all accounts – who had tricked the devil on several occasions.
When Jack died, he was denied entrance into both heaven and hell. However, when the devil turned him away, he gave Jack a burning ember. Jack hollowed out a turnip to carry the ember and give him light. And so, the story was remembered each year by carving scary faces on turnips and placing a burning piece of coal inside. Known as jack-o’-lanterns, Irish immigrants settling in the US, discovered that pumpkins were more readily available and made better jack-o’-lanterns than turnips. Eventually, candles replaced the burning coals and today, it’s more likely to be a battery-operated candle.
But how did jack-o’-lanterns become associated with Halloween? Halloween is based on the Celtic festival Samhain, a celebration in ancient Britain and Ireland that marked the end of summer and the beginning of the new year on 1 November. It was believed that during Samhain the souls of those who had died that year traveled to the otherworld and that other souls would return to visit their homes.
In the 8th century CE, the Roman Catholic Church moved All Saints’ Day, a day celebrating the church’s saints, to 1 November. This meant that All Hallows’ Eve (or Halloween) fell on 31 October. Traditions from Samhain remained, such as wearing disguises to hide yourself from the souls wandering around your home. The folklore about Stingy Jack was quickly incorporated into Halloween, and we’ve been carving pumpkins – or turnips – ever since.
This Halloween, if you notice TV interference, it’s unlikely to be Jack or a returning soul – but there is a small chance it may be due to 4G signals. We’re here to help – contact us on 0808 13 13 800 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).