Halloween, as it is called today, is an ancient Celtic religious festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

This is a very vital time to honor the "turning of the wheel" (changing of the seasons), both for the fertility of the land and for the people. It comes from two words: samh (summer) and fuin (end).

Today we celebrate Samhain on October 31st, although in ancient times there was no set calendar and thus the festival was celebrated at different times in different areas and usually lasted from two to five days.

Christians know this holiday as "Halloween", or "The Feast of All Saints", originally celebrated in February but was moved to its present date by Pope Gregory in 835 CE.

Unlike the somber ceremonies we have come to expect of many religious festivals today, Samhain is celebrated with great enjoyment for all involved. Yes, we have sadness in our hearts for those who have passed, but we celebrate with love, respect and blessings the time we were able to share with our loved ones, in fond remembrance.

Samhain is a time "between times", a place "between places". This is a time when the veil is at its thinnest, when spirits of the dead are able to "walk on this earth", returning to join loved ones and share in the celebrations and for us to visit the "otherworld".

This is a time to light candles to guide the spirits of our loved ones to our homes, inviting them to join us during this time. it is also customary to make the favorite food(s) that our loved ones liked as an offering of our love to them.

Costumes and decorations are to celebrate and to scare away the negative spirits. Therefore, decorations and costumes are many. Children would go door to door, performing some kind of entertainment as a "treat", such as a joke, story, song, poem, etc. in exchange for a "treat". "Treat" for food was also put out on porches to share with those who were less fortunate.

"Danse Macabre", also known as the "Dance of Death", shown in history during the Middle Ages on, consisted of dancing skeletons and music. This is something that showed that death is not just an ending but also a new beginning to be celebrated.

Sources: Glamoury Magic of the Celtic Green World by Steve Blamires and Danse Macabre Dance of Death by Gregoland.com/bones/

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Last updated April 8, 2012

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