Ole Miss Journalism

Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media

Jack-o’-Lanterns Take on Religious Meaning at St. Peter’s Church

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church rang in October with their annual fundraising pumpkin patch.  According to the church’s website, the pumpkin patch raises money for the children and youth activities.

This year’s pumpkin patch coordinator Kara Howland said many pumpkins were sold to church members, who most likely carved them into jack-o’-lanterns in celebration of Halloween.  Many of these people, including  Howland, had no idea how jack-o’-lanterns originated.

The jack-o’-lantern tradition comes from Ireland, according to the History Channel website.  As the story goes, a man named Stingy Jack tricked the devil so often that, when he died, the devil wouldn’t let Jack into hell.

God wouldn’t let a man who spent so much time with the devil into heaven either; so he sent Jack off into the night with a piece of burning coal for a light.  Jack put the coal in a carved-out turnip and the first jack-o’-lantern was born.

Based on the story, people in Ireland and Scotland started using jack-o’-lanterns as a way to scare away evil spirits, and when they immigrated to the United States, they substituted pumpkins for turnips and the Halloween tradition was born.

Howland prefers to tell the church’s children a different story about jack-o’-lanterns.

“If we take the pumpkin and open him up, we can ask God to open our minds, and if we take out all the yucky stuff, remove our sin,” Howland said.  “And we carve the eyes and we tell them it represents opening our eyes to God and to the world.  They usually carve a smile that represents putting ourselves out there to the world and are welcoming to other people.  Finally, we put a light in the pumpkin to let our light shine for Jesus.”

St. Peter’s member Sheryl Watson said she supports the pumpkin patch at St. Peters and will continue to do so.  She calls Halloween a fun holiday and does not find it ironic that a church sells pumpkins for Halloween.

“As long as what you’re selling it for is for a fun thing or is going to benefit somebody in some way. than I see nothing wrong with it,” said Watson.

The pumpkin patch raises between $16,000-20,000 each year.  Howland calls it a raging success and the church plans to continue to have it.

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This entry was posted on November 5, 2012 by in MASmith.
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