Samhain, the beginning of the dark half of the year. It means “Summer’s end” and for the northern European Celts it marked the end of the agricultural year and the beginning of the new year. It was a time when the killing frosts came, animals were brought in for the Winter or slaughtered, and the last harvesting was complete. It was also a time for great feasting, merrymaking and family gatherings. Especially if the year had been a good one.
This festival usually lasted three nights and was referred to as “Three Nights of Summer’s End”. There was the last night of the old year, the first night of the new year and the night in between that belonged to no time. Samhain came at an important time in the Celtic year, as people made the transition from Summer to Winter. They prepared to spend the Winter indoors with their stores of grain, dried meats and cruits, and winter vegetables for themselves, and with grains and hay for their animals. They decided which animal would be kept alive. Only the healthiest animals would be kept alive through the Winter.
From: The Ancient Celtic Festivals and how we celebrate them today.
Trick or treat versus food as an offering
Dressing up versus spirits of the dead
Jack o lantern versus lights to guide the spirits
Fall celebration versus New Year’s celebration
Samhain (pronounce Sow-Ween) is about remembering. Remembering our beloved ones that past on.
Samhain is about being grateful. Grateful for all the food we have and have gotten from Mother Earth and Father Sun. That all our food was once alive. We celebrate our last harvest before the Winter starts.
Samhain is about letting go of old things, old pains. Letting go means there will be space for something new.
Samhain is about opening up to new things, new beginnings, new possibilities and embracing them. It is about hope and change and what the next year will bring.
Samhain is about balance.
The time that follows after Samhain is a time filled with quietness and stillness, it is the time leading up to the Winter Solstice.
Traditions and Activities
Make pumpkin soup. Enjoy anything pumpkin.
1 liter (4 cups) broth
1 cup sour cream (used for cooking)
Let everything boil for 60 minutes till it is nice and soft
Add salt, curry and pepper
Bake a (Dutch) apple pie to honor the last harvest of apples.
Apple resolutions: Bury an apple in the garden as food for spirits passing by on their way to be reborn. And we have to remember: Once the apple rots the bad is gone. If in fact a tree grows, it is a blessing of new and better things to come.
Make resolutions, write them on a small piece of parchment, and burn in a candle flame, preferably a black votive candle within a cauldron on the altar. This is like New Year’s resolutions; as for many Samhain is the New Year.
Set up a season table with symbols of the season like pumpkins, fallen leaves, fruits, nuts, pinecones, the last flowers, candle, bones, photos of our beloved dead and things that remind us of them.
Make masks and costumes representing the different aspects of the Goddess and God, and wear them to your rituals, or use them to decorate your altar area.
Wear costumes that reflect what you hope or wish for in the upcoming year.
We use the Druid Animal Oracle Deck but you can also discover your power animal by doing a meditation.
Make bean runes and read them together with your children.
Light an orange candle. Blow it out. Think of all the fires extinguished and relit over the ages to honor the year’s end. Relight one hour later as a sign that the New Year has begun.
Visit a graveyard and pay respect.
Real aloud stories with a Halloween theme, like Vasalisa (in Circle Round),
Read the Pooka Pages.
Talk about the history of Samhain.
Watch Halloween movies. We like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Monster House, The Nightmare before Christmas, Coraline, Corpe Bride, Casper, The Haunted Mansion, Hotel Transylvania, Curious George A Halloween Boofest, James and the Giant Peach, ParaNorman. They used to like: It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.
Host a Halloween party for your friends and neighbors.
Go to a Waldorf Halloween Walk in your area.
Watch the local Halloween Parade.
Go Trick or Treating! Although we don’t like for the boys to get all the candy, this is one of the favorite things of the boys to do.
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