Samhain marks the point where the wheel of the year starts turning again- in other words, Halloween is New Year’s on the wheel of the year.
Samhain is actually a more important holiday on the wheel than Yule, though it’s Yule that people get excited about (no judgment, I get excited for our yearly Christmas lights, Chinese food, and watching of the Hogsfather night).
This might be one of my entries that gets feathers in a ruffle, so I’m going to gently remind my readers of my commenting policy: you can say what you want, as long as you remember that this is my corner of the Internet and I will not tolerate shaming of any form, insults, or flame wars. I don’t have to approve any comment posted and while questioning/asking for information is fine-soapboxing is not. Remember that you don’t have like what I’m up to when I’m not on this blog, but I don’t have to tolerate being insulted for it either.
So what does Samhain…do…exactly?
As Mid puts it: we light a bonfire and eat things, same as any of the other seven holidays (if you are not familiar with the wheel, we have eight major holidays. That’s right, I have a religious holiday once every six weeks. I actually have trouble keeping them straight, and if you can enlighten me on what Candlemass does, I’d be grateful).
Samhain marks the final harvest, and it’s our one last hurray before we descend into darkness (the true light festivals will start with Yule-hence the Yule log). This is the point of the year when the veil (yes, we use a lot of awkward language, sorry) is the thinnest so we have the most access to the ancestors. It might be easiest to think of Samhain as a family reunion for everyone born into your family ever. We set aside a special plate at dinner for those who have decided to come back for a visit, and remind them that they’re still honored, remembered, and respected.
It’s actually slightly more sad than morbid, because we also hold a general memorial for everyone who has passed since last Samhain. Think of it as an all purpose wake. I’m being pretty flip with the whole thing, but as will all of the sabbats and esabbats, how seriously you take it is up to you. On the other hand, because we have such a strong tradition of ties to our ancestors, it’s not -that- sad either. If you’re familiar with Day of the Dead/Dia de Los Muertos, you’re not far off of what we do.
Beyond that, the only thing that sort of shifts away from Halloween is that we tend to eat more apples, grains, and other harvest foods before/after/during ritual. I’m not going to touch what ritual actually entails because that varies from path to path and individual to individual. We eat a lot of candy, and yes we’ll dress up-either because we just want to or because it’s stated that the Celts wore costumes to scare off the Sluagh.
So while I’m not Wiccan, so I won’t greet you with Blessed Be, I’ll say Merry Meet and Merry Part and Merry Meet Again, Happy Halloween, Happy New Year’s and just plain Happy Friday! Watch out for kids trick or treating and for the love of the gods don’t take media representations of what we do at Samhain seriously. We’re actually a lot more boring than that.