Since today is actually All Hallows Eve, a time Christians of an earlier era celebrated the “rising of the souls” in anticipation of All Saint’s Day tomorrow, I thought I would adjust my storytelling for today, and share a Halloween story I wrote a number of years ago. Its not scary, and can actually be used to read to any grandchildren (or spouses) you may have around. Here goes:
Once upon a time, as most stories go, there was a village known for the most amazing thing. The folks who lived there had the talent for growing pumpkins. Now, these were not just nice-sized pumpkins, or even very large pumpkins like you might see at the grocery store or in your backyard, if you grew them. These were not even huge pumpkins – they were GIANT pumpkins, that grew as tall and as wide as a house! In fact, over the years, folks began to actually use their pumpkins to live in. Each Fall, they would pick the nicest, biggest giant pumpkin, and put it in place in their yard, cut a hole for a door and for some windows, and one for the chimney for their fireplace, and dig out all the goop inside, and move into their new home for the year. The old pumpkin they had lived in for a year before had started to get kind of squishy and wrinkly, and smell like a pumpkin that had lived its best year, and so they would drag it down to the pumpkin dump and let it, along with everyone else’s old pumpkin, rot away.
Now – and this brings us to our story – when I said that everyone in the village grew giant pumpkins, that wasn’t quite the case. There was one fellow who lived there whose name was Jack, who simply could not grow a giant pumpkin. He would borrow seeds from his neighbors, and fertilize and water and do everything else to make his pumpkins grow, but in the end, what he grew were nice-sized pumpkins, like you would see at the grocery store. They were round and orange – and not giant.
This was a problem for Jack, because when everyone was moving into their new giant pumpkin homes, he had nothing to move into. Instead what he had to do was to wait until folks had dragged their old squishy pumpkins down to the pumpkin dump, and then he would try to find the least squishy one, and drag it back to his yard, so he would have a home to live in for another year.
To tell you the truth, he didn’t enjoy it one bit. Everything he owned smelled like old pumpkin, and the roof was usually kind of caved in a bit, and plops and glops of pumpkin would fall from the ceiling onto his supper, and his bed pillow, and his recliner, and his television, which made everything kind of squishy and icky, but that was his home.
Even worse, there were some folks in the village who had kind of mean streak to them, and after they moved into their new homes in the Fall, they would tease Jack for having to live in such a smelly old place. It was very mean, and made Jack very unhappy, as he watched another plop of old pumpkin land on his laptop computer…
One year, however, as it always happens, a huge problem came to the village. The day before Halloween, a giant storm, even bigger than the pumpkins, started move into the village. It rained very hard. And then it hailed. And then the wind blew almost like a hurricane. And then, it even started to snow, but not the nice snow that kids like to play in – it was cold and icy and froze all over everything in the village, from the cars to the playground, to every single giant pumpkin home. It was a mess, to be sure.
And then, even worse, all the electricity in the village went out. All the lamps, the lights, the stoves, the phones, the front door lights, and the street lights all went dark. People stumbled around in the dark, bumping hard into the corners of their furniture and into trees and rocks and caused very big black and blue marks on their knees and shins. It was very bad.
It was also very bad because the next night was Halloween, when all the children would normally go from giant pumpkin to giant pumpkin, trick or treating, and have a wonderful and happy time. However, with no electricity, there were no lights, and so the children did now know which house to go to that had treats to hand out, and even worse, with no street lights, it was dark, and kind of scary and kind of dangerous for kids to go across the street. This was an even worse kind of bad.
In fact, it was so bad that the leaders of the village met and decided that they would all have to cancel trick or treating for the year. No candy, no goodies, no dressing up and certainly – no fun. When the news went out, you could hear across the village the crying and sobbing from both the children and the parents who always loved Halloween because it was so much fun. However, to be safe and sound, there was nothing anyone could do. It was perhaps the saddest day the village had ever known.
When Jack heard the news, he was very sad too. He didn’t have any children of his own, but he looked forward to having the kids of the village stop by his squishy house, and at least for one night, be happy to see him, and yell “Trick or Treat,” and he would give out the handfuls of candy that he had gotten to share. Without them coming around, all he could look forward to was to have glops of pumpkin land on his bowl of candy and ruin everything.
As Jack sat in the dark in his pumpkin, he began to think of how he might help. He thought and thought and thought, and then a bright idea came to him! He went out to his backyard, which was full of normal-sized pumpkins that he had grown that year. Careful not to bump his own shin, he found a nice, normal-sized pumpkin and brought it inside. He spread out some newspapers, and put it on his kitchen table. He then carefully took a sharp knife, and cut the top off the pumpkin. Then he used a big spoon, and scooped out all the goop from inside the pumpkin. His hands and arms got all sticky from reaching in to get the goop, but this was more important than not being sticky! When he had the goop and shoveled out, he then took a candle, and put it inside the pumpkin, lit it, and put the lid back on the top.
The candle went out, and with the lid on, no candlelight could be seen. Jack sat and thought and thought, and then came up with another bright idea! He carefully took his knife, and cut two holes in the side of the pumpkin. He then lit the candle again and put the top on, and sure enough, a little bit of light came shining through the holes. It wasn’t much light, though, and so Jack thought again. Again, he took his knife and cut another hole below the first two, and then cut an even bigger hole, wide and deep below that one. He lit the candle again, put the lid on, and sure enough – there in front of him was a bright glowing, normal-sized pumpkin! In fact, as he looked at it, it almost looked like a smiling face looking back at him – not too scary, but fun to see.
Jack put his pumpkin in a sack and ran fast to the village hall, where all the village leaders were sitting, holding their heads in their hands and crying because Halloween was cancelled. Jack started speaking: “Listen my friends! I have a way to make things all better!” They laughed at him, because how could someone who lived in such a squishy pumpkin have any idea on how to fix something so bad?
Jack reached into his sack and pulled out his carved pumpkin. He put it on the table, lit the candle, put the lid on, and suddenly the room was filled with light, glowing out of the holes on the pumpkin’s carved face. Everyone oohed and ahhed and realized that Jack indeed had a good idea! Jack went on to explain that everyone could take a regular-sized pumpkin, scoop the goop out, carve it, and put a candle in, and use it to light up the front steps of every house, and to carry along to brighten up the streets as the kids went from house to house, and that indeed, they could have trick or treating after all that Halloween night.
The people applauded and cheered Jack for his great idea. He then invited everyone in town to come to his backyard and pick out a regular-sized pumpkin to carve, and in a little while, the streets were filled with children in their costumes, going from house to house in the glow of a pumpkin candlelight – and indeed, Halloween was saved, and everyone had a marvelous time, and the children ate way too much candy that night, and the parents managed to sneak some out of the kids trick or treat bags, and enjoy the night as well.
The next day, Jack had a knock on his squishy pumpkin door. He opened it, and there in front of him was the entire village! The leader spoke, “We have not been very nice to you, Jack, as we made you live in a squishy second-hand pumpkin all these years. But you saved Halloween – and we want to be better neighbors to you.” They then dragged the biggest, nicest giant pumpkin in the village to Jack’s yard, and fixed it all up for him to live in.
Jack was very happy. No more goop. The village promised that each year they would make sure that Jack had a nice new pumpkin to live in, and in return, Jack continued to grow nice, regular-sized pumpkins in his backyard. Each Halloween, folks would come and pick out a pumpkin to carve, and to use as light as they went trick or treating. The village was a happy place to live, and Jack was perhaps the happiest of all.
Over the years, people began to call the lighted pumpkins each year by a special name: Jack’s lantern. After a while, it was even easier to just call them “jack o’lanterns,” and that’s why we have them today.
Have a happy and safe Halloween – and think of Jack as you go trick or treating. With no more goop in his house.
I hope you enjoy the day, and avoid the icky horrible stuff that some folks want to inject into what could be a fun time for all. See you tomorrow.
Word for the day: haunted. Pronounced – oh, you know how to say it… the word comes actually from a Middle English verb, haunt, meaning “to frequently visit.” This isn’t just coming around now and then – it’s like one never leaves, like “haunting” a drinking establishment night after night.
Of course, the natural progression was to think about those things that never seem to leave, and for superstitious folks, that pertained to spirits and ghosts that “haunted” a place, never going away. It then began to mean as a verb something that had a troubling effect on someone, like an experience that “haunted” them for years.
Today, the word always seems to summon up some kind of spooky something, or uneasy feeling as though we are not safe. I hope this definition doesn’t haunt you too much today…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.