The history behind the ghostly night

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Illustration by Estefania B. Alonso

Instructor will give sixth annual special-edition Halloween lecture Oct. 31.

By Emily Garcia

Halloween is believed to have started with the Celts in the British Isles and Iberian Peninsula, which is modern-day Spain, Portugal and parts of France, philosophy full-time Adjunct Ryan Lozano said Oct. 14.

Around the year 63 B.C, the Celts were practicing a festival called Samhain on Oct. 31, which was a festival dedicated to the end of year, Lozano said.

The Celts believed the beginning of the New Year was Nov. 1.

During this festival, the year’s harvest was celebrated and people would make sure they were prepared for the winter, such as slaughtering animals to preserve, and choosing animals to breed during the next spring, Lozano said.

Oct. 31 was the beginning of the dark half of the year because the winter months began and there is less daylight, Lozano said.

Because the dark half of the year was beginning, the Celts believed that on the day of the Samhain. The barrier between the living and the dead was the thinnest it ever would be throughout the year, Lozano said.

“Think of it like a membrane that separates us from the living and the dead, and they thought it was the thinnest or most permeable at this time right before the dark half of the year started,” Lozano said.

The Celts believed supernatural beings, called “aos si,” used the day of the Samhain to enter the physical world to roam and play, Lozano said.

“The Celts would dress up as mythological figures or supernatural creatures, and that sort of became our tradition of dressing up in costumes,” Lozano said

One of the ways to appease the spirits of the night would be to give gifts, usually food, to the people dressed as supernatural beings, Lozano said.

“So a person would dress up as a figure of mythology, and you would give them food to get them to leave you alone and go away, and then you would bless your house, and that essentially became trick or treating,” he said.

In Ireland, people would carve frightening faces into turnips or rutabagas and create lanterns out of them to see their way during that night, Lozano said.

This eventually evolved into creating jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.

As the Christian Church began to expand over Celtic land, the day became the Day of the Dead, followed by All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

Halloween began to spread across North America with the Anglican and Catholic churches but was known as All Hallows Eve, Lozano said.

“It wasn’t until the late 1800s, early 1900s, that people started doing Halloween as we now think of it,” Lozano said.

Lozano has given five special-edition Halloween lectures at this college.

His sixth lecture will be “It’s the End of the World as We Know It! A Philosophical Examination of Apocalypse/Revelation” at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 31 in Room 207 of Oppenheimer Academic Center.

Lozano can be reached at 210-486-0247 or


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