Are you celebrating Samhain or celebrating Halloween?

Either way, Spooky season is here! We love scary movies, endless sugars, holiday bakes, costumes and so much more!

So what is Samhain and how do you celebrate it? This pagan festival was to welcome in the dark half of the year and say goodbye to the long summer light-filled days.

Learn more about celebrating Samhain (pronounced sow-in) in our blog below! 

Celebrating Samhain: The History of Samhain

Samhain was celebrated by the ancient Celtic pagans and was a festival to welcome in the darker half of the year. What does the darker half of the year mean?

The ancient Celtic’s calendar was divided into the dark half and the light half. Samhain is the midpoint of the Fall Equinox and the Winter Equinox this day marks the start of the dark half of the year!

Celtic Calendar

This is also the last major fire festival of the year and was thought to be one of the most important. Pagan celebrants believed that the borders between the spiritual world (called otherworld) and the living world would break down. This lead to the belief that spirits, good and bad, could more easily come to our world!

The celebration was mandatory during this festival and it was believed that those who did not celebrate in the long festival would fall ill or possibly die. Townspeople were required to join the three-day festivities which included the lighting of a massive Firewheel.

Once the Firewheel was lit, participants took some of this fire home to relight their fireplaces. All fireplaces were required to be lit during the entire festival as they believed it would keep them safe from spirits.

Fire Wheel

Cattle and livestock were brought back from their summer pastures and some were slaughtered for winter. Feasting on giant meals and mass consumption of alcohol like meed and beer also took place.

The belief that the barrier between the two worlds was more open, means they needed to protect themselves from spirits not only by lighting big fires but also by dressing up as animals and monsters. Typically, they used discarded animal skins and hides.

Sometimes participants, mainly in Scotland, would visit nearby neighbors drop off a cake or food gift, and sing songs at doors to honor the dead! Starting to sound a little familiar? We bet it is…

So what’s the deal with Halloween?

Christians often adopted many of the festivals and festivities and create their own version. Basically, during this time (think crusades era) Christianity was super popular and they were traveling the entire world spreading their own beliefs.

Around the late 600s All-Souls day, another Christian celebration took place during the end of October and early November and was then popularized. All-Souls day turned into All-Hallows Day, then to All-Hallows Eve, and the rest is history.

Believe it or not, a lot of the holidays we celebrate in the United States today have a direct history of ancient Celtic festivals. Festivals like Christmas, Easter, Lughnasa & Mabon!

The Halloween we celebrate today is largely based on Samhain. You can ultimately thank early Irish immigrants for bringing over these ideals in the early 19th century.

Celebrating Halloween vs Celebrating Samhain

Celebrating Samhain and Celebrating Halloween really boils down to your own personal beliefs and what YOU want to celebrate!

Samhain was used to welcome in the dark time of the year, honor spirits of ancestors, feast on harvests, and reflect on the past and make changes for your future!

Altar for Samhain

  • Samhain Altar – Make your own Samhain altar and adorn it with lots of bones, harvest vegetables, dried leaves, bark, nuts, mead, or cider.
  • Ancestor Altar – Pay respects to family members who have moved on to the otherworld. Gather old family photos, heirlooms, and items of significance. Light candles with the intention to honor their name and wish them well.
  • Bonfire Magic –  Light a fire outside and write down old habits you want to break and welcome change into your life! – Be sure to check with your local laws on outdoor fire restrictions.
  • Samhain Feast – Samhain was celebrated for three days would be centered around eating the latest harvest, drinking, and gathering! Use harvest vegetables, lots of herbs and spices, cook a great meal, and celebrate with your people!

Halloween in America is a time to trick-or-treat, eat candy, watch horror movies, and party!

Just remember whatever you chose to celebrate, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the people you are around!

 

References: 

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain#:~:text=Samhain%20is%20a%20pagan%20religious,dark%20half%20of%20the%20year.%E2%80%9D

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/samhain.shtml

https://www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/celebrating-the-seasons/celebrating-samhain

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