Did you know that Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain? Modern pagans still celebrate this three day festival, which marks the transition between summer and winter. Here is one family celebrates this special time.
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Samhain (pronounced Sow-ween) means “Summer’s end” and is the beginning of the dark half of the year. Samhain came at an important time in the Celtic year, as people made the transition from summer to winter. 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. They prepared to spend the winter indoors with their stores of grain, dried meats and fruits, and winter vegetables for themselves, and grains and hay for their animals.
It was also a time for great feasting, merrymaking and family gatherings, especially if the year had been a good one. The Samhain festival usually lasted three nights and was referred to as “Three Nights of Summer’s End”: the last night of the old year, the first night of the new year, and the night in between that belonged to no time.
Source: The Ancient Celtic Festivals and how we celebrate them today
Our Samhain Celebration
Samhain is our family’s biggest celebration of the year. We celebrate for three days, starting on October 30th and ending on November 1st.
What is Samhain about:
– It is about remembering our loved ones that passed on;
– It is about being grateful for all the food that we have gotten and remembering that all our food was once alive. We celebrate our last harvest before the winter starts;
– It is about letting go of old things. Letting go of grief, old pains and making space for new things;
– It is about opening up for new things, new beginnings, new opportunities. It is about hope and change and what the next year will bring;
– It is about balance. The time that follows after Samhain is a time filled with quietness and stillness, as the days get shorter. It is the time that leads up to the Winter Solstice, to the celebration of the return of the light.
This year on the day before our celebration starts (October 29th) we will watch the local Halloween Parade. The kids love to dress up. We also use this Druid Animal Oracle Deck to discover our power animal to make masks, but you can also discover your power animal by doing a meditation.
We will make pumpkin soup and traditional Dutch apple pie, which will hopefully last for a couple of days. And we share stories about Samhain. We love these books as a guide to our yearly celebrations:
Our Pumpkin Soup Recipe
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
On the last day of the old year (October 30th) we will add photos of loved ones that passed on to our season table and add candles. We share stories about them, what we remember, what we miss. During these days we will light a lot of candles,
We will carve pumpkins. One of the best activities ever! Well, my boys thinks so. Did you know that the lights in the carved pumpkins are to help the spirits find their way home? We will drink hot apple cider where we cut apples in cross section to float in hot apple cider spiced with cinnamon to honor the dead. Can you find the five-pointed star? It is an ancient symbol of the Goddess and protection.
And we will watch a Halloween movie with the children. We like Casper, The Dark Crystal, Monster House, Labyrinth, The Nightmare before Christmas, Coraline, Corpse Bride, The Haunted Mansion, Hotel Transylvania 1 & 2, Curious George A Halloween Boofest, James and the Giant Peach, ParaNorman, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Room on the Broom, Hocus Pocus.
On the day in between (October 31st) we make resolutions. Both everything we like to leave in the old year and everything we wish for the new year we write down on a piece of paper and when we are done we put everything in a special pot and burn it. Setting everything free. Another activity that our boys love because it is an activity with fire. And the kids that can’t write yet, draw they’re wishes.
We will read Halloween stories to the children. We like Room on the Broom, Corduroy’s Best Halloween Ever, Big Pumpkin and we love the Pooka Pages (the Samhain version was not available at the time of writing this post).
In the afternoon we go to the local Waldorf school for the Halloween Journey, which is a wonderful experience and after that we return home. The boys will dress up and are ready to hand out some candy to the trick or treaters that come knocking on our door..
On the first day of the new year (November 1st) we always have a quiet day where we go for a walk on the cemetery. We wonder what their lives looked liked and are surprised when we see that someone lived to be very old and feel sad when we see that someone passed on really young. We talk about our loved ones a little more and most of the time our boys like to talk about our dog that past away two years ago.
No matter where you are and who you are with, you take your traditions with you. Your house will become your home because you add a little (or a lot) of yourself to that house, like pictures or art, curtains and blankets, drawings of the children… The same goes for your celebrations. How you celebrate your birthdays and your other celebrations that are important to you. Along your travels and your life journey, you will experience new traditions, traditions and celebrations that might resonate with you and you may choose to make those your own too. And as you travel further in life, you will take everything with you. When you get ready to move again and your home transforms back to a house and your whole life is packed up in boxes and you move on to the new place, that new place will become your home. Because you are there and you will fill it again with your soul.
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