How Samhain Is Celebrated in a Pagan Family

kids in costumesHalloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love costumes, pumpkins, scary stuff, horror movies, and did I mention costumes? And of course, candy. If I had my way, my decorations would likely get out of hand. As a Pagan, though, in addition to doing the commonly known Halloween stuff, we also pay homage to passed loves ones, in the celebration of Samhain (pronounced 'sow' like the female pig, 'win' or 'wen' ... 'sow-wen').

I really enjoy not only the fun and, yes, commercial stuff about October 31, but also our more solemn, serious family rituals and, of course, recognition of the changes in the planet.


My 2-year-old daughter is a little too young to understand, but my 7-year-old and I have discussed the axial tilt of the planet throughout the year so he understands what Samhain is all about. It means 'Summer's End,' as there used to be just two recognized seasons -- summer and winter, and this is the start of the time of year when nights are longer than days. Being the polar opposite of Beltaine, the start of summer, which is all about birth and new life and light, Samhain pays respect to the dead. It used to include setting a place at the dinner feast for loves ones who've passed on, leaving the door open so they could come in, and lighting candles and putting them in carved gourds with scary faces to scare off bad spirits. So jack-o'-lanterns and giving out food at our door to kids costumed as ghosts (amongst other things) isn't that far-fetched, eh?

I think that's one of my favorite things about the holiday. Every single thing that's commonly practiced also has historical roots based in old beliefs. Whether or not we still believe there's going to be evil spirits scared off by glowing carved faces is irrelevant -- it's just fun! But I do so love having an answer to explain why we do each thing (I don't really like doing most things without reason), and it's also a time to talk with my kids about their grandmother and great grandfather who passed before they were born, and pay special respect to them that night. Also, since it was a time when they would make a big bonfire, gather all crops, and bring in the flocks to protected areas as it got colder, there was a big feast, which, for me, means I have an excuse to cook a large meal, all based on what crops would have been harvested that time of year, something I find maybe a little too entertaining. Well, not to mention, I love witch stuff, cats, costumes, hot apple cider, carving pumpkins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin spice lattes ... did I mention I love this time of year? Because I totally do.

Have you ever heard of Samhain? Do you do anything special for passed loves ones on October 31?

Image via Reflections Photography

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