Samhain (pronounced Sow-in, SAh-vin, or Sahm-hayn), All Hallow's eve, or as everyone knows it Halloween is October 31. It is the Third and final harvest time, a time to remember the people who have died this past year and honor the ones who have gone before.
This is a very controversial Sabbat of ours. One reason is that some Christians insistence that it is an evil celebration. There is nothing evil about honoring our dead ancestors and communicating with them. The idea that evil spirits walk the Earth is a very popular misconception! In fact this is the night our God dies. He dies to protect us from the spirits that are not welcome on this plane. He stands at the veil and holds them back. This is also the first day of Winter and is also said to be the Pagan New Year.
On Samhain, the veil between the worlds of the living and those who have died is thinnest. Our God dies this night protecting the Earth from the spirits of the dead and the Goddess mourns his death for the next 6 weeks. This is the perfect night to attempt communication with relatives who have passed on. Because of this thinning of the veil, Jack-o-Lanterns are carved and candles placed in them to protect your home from unwanted visitors through the night.
In our home, we begin setting our altar up gradually through the month of October. We clean the altar, top to bottom, and place a seasonal cloth upon it. This year we are using yellow. The children and I gather leaves, acorns and other items through our walks in the neighborhood to place on the altar. I buy small pumpkins and gourds to place around the altar space. We also gather photos of our deceased relatives to be placed on the altar. My children love hearing stories of their relatives. This provides a time of learning for them to see the importance of family and honoring traditions.
On the night of Samhain before going trick or treating, we gather for the family meal and place a plate of food upon the altar for the ancestors and protecting spirits that surround us. Before bed, the food is placed outside on the ground as an offering.
Samhain and Halloween are not scary despite the commercialization of the Holy Day. It can be fun yet a great learning experience year after year for everyone.