Hello lovely reader! I’m going to give you some ideas about how to celebrate Samhain, but first I’ll explain a little about this festival and it’s traditions.
What is Samhain?
Samhain, pronounced sow-ain, is a festival that marks the last harvest of the year, and is now commonly known as Halloween or All Hallows Eve.
It’s an ancient festival, estimated to be around 6000 years old. The name Samhain is Irish-Gaelic meaning Summers End. This festival celebrates nature’s cycle of death and renewal and is the beginning of the Celtic New Year.
Samhain marks the beginning of Winter
The days are getting shorter and the power of the sun is waning. Animals would be brought back from the fields into a safe haven as the land prepares to sleep.
Samhain is the opposite to Beltane in the Wheel of the Year, when the animals would be going out to the fresh green pastures to graze, the birth of vegetation. The Celts divided their year in this way, the light half and the dark half.
This is a fire festival that is the mid point between the Autumn Equinox and the Mid Winter Solstice. Feasts were held and bonfires were lit throughout the countryside to welcome friendly spirits and ward off evil spirits. They were a physical symbol of divinity, representing the sun which would bring heat and growth.
It was a custom for families attending the fire and feast to take an ember of the fire to start a new cooking fire in their home. These fires were believed to keep homes happy and and free from any lost evil spirits.
The name bonfire is thought to be derived from the custom of burning the bones of cattle which were slaughtered at this time – a bone fire.
The End of the Harvest
This would have been the last big feast of fresh foods. A time to mark death in the cycle of the year, a time to remember and honour those who have left this world of the living.
The Celts looked to their ancestors to bring them guidance for the coming year and hoped to commune with them. They believed that if a departed soul could assist you then that soul would be elevated and rewarded.
The Veil Between the Worlds
Being the crossover from the light to the dark, it is believed that on Samhain night, the veil between this world and the world of our ancestors is at it’s thinnest. Allowing the spirits of the departed to return to be with their loved ones, making it a good time to practice divination.
The custom of setting an extra place at the dinner table or leaving food out was a welcoming gesture to those who had departed, and was the birth of Trick or Treat customs.
The hollowed out pumpkins also stems from this tradition. With the symbolism of the fires or candles within them, they were placed near front doors to welcome the friendly spirits and protect from the evil ones.
How to Celebrate Samhain
The key ideas to keep in mind during this time of the year are
- Change and releasing negativity
- Reflection on the past year and the future one
- Endings and beginnings
- Honouring the dead
Walks in nature are a lovely way to observe the changing season, the colours turning and the crispness of the air beginning to take hold.
Meditations to contemplate and recognise your achievements of the past year and to think on the coming year.
You can honour and acknowledge your ancestors by visiting their graveside, setting out some loved photographs, and as I mentioned earlier, setting out an extra place at your dinner table.
Place a lit candle in a window or outside to guide the welcome spirits and deter the unwanted ones.
You can now enjoy popular Halloween activities with a new sense of how they began, and their symbolism!
How to Celebrate Samhain – Food and Decorations
All the seasonal foods of this time of year are perfect for sustaining and keeping us warm with the changing weather!
Foods with potatoes, apples, turnips, pumpkins, squash, nuts and other root vegetables.
Preserving meats, and sausages. Also ale (a traditional preservative!) cider and herbal teas.
One of my favourite Samhain recipes is a soup or stew made with lamb, chunks of pumpkin or squash and cider. I like to serve it in the hollowed out pumpkin. It makes a great centrepiece and talking point with guests too!
Of course Jack-o-Lanterns are the ultimate decoration! Did you know they were originally made with turnips?!
Decorations made with orange and yellowing leaves, acorns and bare branches are fitting for Samhain.
Pictures of your ancestors and symbols of protection and growth are also in keeping with this festival.
I have created a freebie for you, all about this festival and how to Celebrate Samhain. It’s available in the downloads you have access to when you have subscribed.
I am also recording a Samhain meditation for you, which I will publish nearer the time, and send you a link for.
Until then, Pixie love! xx