Samhain or Halloween?

Samhain or Halloween?

Today is the festival of Samhain as well as one of our favorite Holidays of Halloween.
Samhain is the traditional harvest festival of the Wiccan religion that is celebrated on October 31 to celebrate the harvest and welcome the start winter. Halloween also traditionally falls on the 31st and is the eve of All Hallows Day on November 1 which is also referred to as All Saints Day. Some say that Halloween evolved from Samhain as a form of cultural appropriation in the same way that the pagan festival of Yule was adopted as Christmas. I prefer to not think of it as appropriation but instead as evolution.

Today is the festival of Samhain as well as one of our favorite Holidays of Halloween.

Samhain (a Gaelic word meaning "summers end" pronounced as "sow-win" with the "ow" like in "cow") is the traditional harvest festival of the Wiccan religion that is celebrated on October 31 to celebrate the harvest and welcome the start winter. Halloween also traditionally falls on the 31st and is the eve of All Hallows Day on November 1 which is also referred to as All Saints Day. Some say that Halloween evolved from Samhain as a form of cultural appropriation in the same way that the pagan festival of Yule was adopted as Christmas. I prefer to not think of it as appropriation but instead as evolution.

One of the key aspects of Samhain is that the veil between our world and the “Other world” is at its weakest at this time. There are many traditional tales of spirits visiting the living on Samhain. These spirits can be benevolent or evil depending on the circumstance. This practice has evolved in popular culture into the ghost and goblin costumes we see on Halloween. The Mexican festival of the Day of the Dead also occurs at the same time and similar celebrates the weakening of the veil between this world and the next and is celebrated by dressing in costumes to honor the dead. It seems that many cultures all over the world had the same idea. The same truth told slightly differently.

In the Celtic tradition the people often left out treats or gifts to the Samhain spirits that might appear at this time when the veil was weakest. Gifts were left out for the fairies or Sidhs to appease them and keep them happy. Villagers would dress up as monsters so the fairies would not be tempted to kidnap them. Another custom that has been passed down to the children who dress up and Trick or Treat on Halloween.

The Wiccan celebration of Samhain has various forms from fire ceremonies to those that mimic aspects of Halloween as well as ceremonies honoring nature or ancestors. A tradition is to have a meal where spirits are invited to join in to communicate with the living. An invitation to honor their ancestor’s and the passage of time at the end of the harvest.

The Druids specifically celebrates communion with the spirits of the dead at this time. A bonfire and celebrations of music and dance in the “Witches Ball” also occur at this time and are echoed in the current day Halloween parties and celebrations.

It is possible to trace the origins of Halloween to the celebration of Samhain. We can all agree that it is a magical time of year. Perhaps the spirits will actually visit us now that the veil is thin. Keep a place open at your table tonight. You never know when you might get a Samhain visitor.

Merry Samhain and Happy Halloween to one and all!

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