Johnny was a stingy, bare-faced cheat and drunk. The Devil was surprised that such a person could exist and decided to put him to the test. He disguised himself as a person and went to the tavern where Johnny usually drank. He told the poor chap that he had come to take him to Hell because of his sins. Johnny begged for one last wish: to have another drink. But when it came to paying the bill, neither of them had any money. Johnny asked the Devil to turn himself into money to demonstrate his supernatural powers. Lucifer agreed, but the old scoundrel still didn’t pay. He stuffed the money into his pocket next to a crucifix. The Devil could only get out after promising a year’s truce.
He returned 365 days later and Johnny asked for another wish: to pick an apple from the top of a tree to eat before going down to Hell. Lucifer obligingly climbed up and the rascal tied a cross to the apple tree trunk. This time he asked for ten years of peace and that his soul could never be called to the underworld.
Johnny died before the ten years had expired. He knocked on Heaven’s doors, but St. Peter wouldn’t let him in because of his sins. He went down to Hell and was expelled from there, too, but took some burning embers that he put into a hollow turnip as if it were a lantern. Johnny the tightwad became known as Jack-o’-Lantern. Some time later the turnip was turned into a pumpkin.
Jack began to wander through people’s houses, proposing deals or uttering curses. That’s the origin of the “trick or treat” tradition and of decorating the home with pumpkin lamps to keep the Devil away.
It is an Irish legend that emigrated to the United States and was disseminated by Hollywood. However, in Spain this custom originated earlier and goes back to the eighteenth century as an inheritance of our Celtic ancestors who celebrated the end of the harvest season and used masks to drive away evil spirits.
In Galicia there is a strong tradition of witches (meigas) because haberlas, haylas (an untranslatable idiomatic phrase that means something like “I don’t believe in witches but if they fly, they fly”). In Soria the Ritual of the Souls (Ritual de las Ánimas ), in which the people sing at night protected by buckets, pumpkins or any earthenware container, still survives today.
Fear of the hereafter makes us take measures to anticipate events with funeral insurance to relieve the family of the cost and worry when we say our final “see you later!”.