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History of Halloween

History of Halloween
Halloween as an American holiday is and always has been about fun. And why not? What is there not to love about it? Great costumes, trick or treating, free candy and, as we get a bit older, great parties, adult themes and a slight turn to the dark side, all in fun of course.

But ever wonder what started it all? Why the jack o'lantern in a pumpkin? What does this symbolize? Why all the death symbols and scary themes? Witches, devils, ghosts, bats? Where did we get all of this stuff? The answer has nothing to do with America, but instead a tale from the Old World, Ireland to be exact! Now, compliments of the story is finally told.

Legend has it that it all started with the tale of a stingy drunkard named Jack, an Irish blacksmith. Jack was a trouble maker, with a temper, but loved to spend his time at the local pub, doing what he did best. According to Irish folklore, Jack had the misfortune to run into the Devil one Halloween night. Jack, as usual, was drunk and was about to fall into the Devil's hands, but managed to trick Satan by offering his soul in exchange for one last drink. The Devil turned himself into a sixpence to pay the bartender, but Jack quickly pocketed him in his purse. Because Jack had a silver cross in his purse, the Devil could not change himself back. He begged Jack to let him out and he wouldn’t budge until the Devil promised not to claim his soul for ten years.

The Devil agreed, and angered by being outwitted by a drunkard, vowed revenge. So ten years to the day, the Devil came across Jack while he was walking on a country road. The Devil wanted to collect, but Jack, thinking quickly, said "I'll go, but before I go, will you get me an apple from that tree?" The Devil, thinking he had nothing to lose, jumped on Jack's shoulders to obtain the apple. Jack pulled out his knife and carved a cross in the trunk of the tree. The Devil, stuck in the tree, was unable to obtain Jack or his soul. Jack made him promise to never again ask for his soul. Seeing no way out, the Devil agreed.

When Jack finally died years later, he was not admitted to Heaven, because of his life of drinking and being tightfisted and deceitful. When he went to apply for entrance to Hell, the Devil had to turn him away because he agreed never to take Jack's soul. "But where can I go?" asked Jack. "Back where you came from!" replied the Devil. The way back was windy and dark. Jack pleaded with the Devil to at least provide him a light to find his way. The Devil, as a final gesture, threw a live coal at Jack straight from the fire of Hell. To light his way and to keep it from blowing out in the wind, Jack put it in a turnip he was eating.

Ever since that fateful day, Jack has been doomed to wander purgatory, in darkness with his lantern until "Judgment Day." Jack of the lantern (Jack o'Lantern) became known as the symbol of a damned soul, Jack’s damned soul. People believed that spirits and ghosts left the grave on Halloween and would seek out warmth in their previous homes. Villagers, fearful of the possibility of being visited by the ghosts of past occupants, would dress up in costumes to scare the spirits on their way. They would also leave food and other treats at their door to appease the spirits, so they would not destroy their homes or crops, but instead move on down the road. They also began to hollow out turnips with a face either painted or carved into it, and place lighted candles inside; hoping the image of a damned soul would scare the spirits away. So you see, the tradition of giving away free candy actually has a reason! The Irish Potato Famine (1845-50) prompted over 700,000 to immigrate to the America. These immigrants brought with them their traditions of Halloween and Jack o' Lanterns, but turnips were not as readily available as back home. They found the American pumpkin to be an adequate replacement. Today, the carved pumpkin is perhaps the most famous icon of the holiday.

So today we celebrate Jack and Halloween by putting our Jack o Lanterns outside our homes to keep away the dammed souls or do we? We actually invite them in, in the guise of trick or treaters, party guests or just friends. Nowadays, not having an array of scary decorations is almost a major faux paux. now offers a vast selection of Halloween decorations, supplies and other spooky items that will make any house look the part. Besides, if Jack is walking on your street this Halloween night, wouldn’t you want to make him feel at home? So come visit us, check out of great selection of Halloween decorations and if you have any questions, feel free to call us at 866-377-1224.