Though Samhain is a deeply spiritual and contemplative time of the year, it is also a time for Wiccans to gather to celebrate the beginning of the new year. Plan your Samhain celebration for anytime from October 31 to November 5, which is the modern day Bonfire Night in Britain. Ask your guests to bring their favorite divination tools and to wear costumes that represent what they want to be in the new year.
The Samhain Ritual. Start at sundown with your formal Samhain ritual (see the Rituals topic in the Related Links section below for specific ritual ideas). Cast the circle, call the quarters, and honor the Lord and Lady. Doing the religious ritual first is a great way to channel everyone’s anticipatory excitement into a meaningful activity while you are all fresh and alert. It enables you to relax afterward, eat and drink, and have fun.
The Feast. Serve roast fowl or pork, root vegetables and squash, roasted nuts, and pies and breads. Drink apple cider, hard cider, ale, mead, or mulled wine.
The Party. Put on the dance music either in your living room or outdoors, and let your guests boogie down around the bonfire or a cauldron on the coffee table filled with lit candles. Your Celtic fusion music choices run from older bands such as Steeleye Span, Pentangle, and Fairport Convention to newer such as Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, and The Tossers. In the kitchen, others can enjoy games and crafts as follows:
*Bobbing for Apples. Place your hands behind your back and use your mouth to catch apples floating in a bowl of water.
*Pass the Apple. Form a circle, alternating males with females. The leader clamps an apple under his chin, and everyone joins hands to keep from touching the apple. Each person must pass the apple to his neighbor, using only chin and upper body to stabilize it, sending it around the circle without dropping it.
*Carving Vegetable Lanterns. Hollow out a turnip or rutabaga to hold a candle and carve the sides with abstract piercings, runes, or a jack-o-lantern face to let the light shine forth. This is what the Celts did long before the pumpkin was introduced to Britain from the New World. Of course you can use pumpkins, if you wish.
*Making a Bonfire Poppet. Have scraps of paper, pencil stubs, and bits of black yarn available in a basket. Each person takes a paper and writes down anything bad – a habit, an experience, or a person – from last year that they wish to leave behind in the coming new year. This should remain a secret. Each person folds or twists the paper into a rectangle, bends it in half, and ties down the two ends at their midpoint from the paper’s loop with a piece of black yarn. The object will look like a poppet with the loop at the top forming the head, the yarn tie in the middle resembling arms, and the ends of the paper at the bottom looking like legs. Each person should save his or her poppet for casting on the bonfire later on. Make the poppets tiny if your caldron lit with candles is standing in for an outdoor bonfire.
Banishing Ritual at the Bonfire. Right before this ritual is a good time to gather everyone around the bonfire and award first, second, and third prizes for best costumes. Next, have everyone retrieve the poppet that they made earlier. Stand in a circle around the bonfire or cauldron filled with candles. Each individual (or everyone at once) throws his or her poppet on the fire while visualizing the negative influence written within the poppet burning up on the threshold between the old year and the new year. Meanwhile, the group chants, "Send this shadow far from me. As we speak, so mote it be."
A small group can burn its poppets one at a time, going widdershins (counter-clockwise) around the circle, as is customary for banishing rituals. Chant the rhyme twice – once to sharpen everyone’s focus on the poppet as each individual holds it up, and a second time to send it into the fire. For a large group where everyone is throwing in his or her poppet simultaneously, chant the rhyme five times total to carry the ceremony to its conclusion.
Afterglow. Turn down the Celtic fusion music and switch to something slow and atmospheric. Pass around the desserts and coffee or pour everyone a new round, and let the party wind down into a contented feeling of closeness. Now people can pair off to do readings for each other to predict the coming year with their favorite divination tools. Provide plenty of seating and trays or other horizontal surfaces for divination. Samhain is a great night for people to practice their fortune-telling skills and to show off their runes, Tarot decks, or ogham sticks.
First, second, and third prizes for best costume can be Amazon Gift Cards to Print.