Samhain, (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) is Wiccan/Pagan holiday that means "End of Summer", and is the third and final Harvest. It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st. It is one of the two "spirit-nights" each year, the other being Beltane (which is celebrated on the same day as Samhain in the Southern hemisphere.) Wiccans and Pagans believe it is a magical interval when the laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.
Originally the "Feast of the Dead" was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead". Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. People dressed in white (like ghosts), wore disguises made of straw, or dressed as the opposite gender in order to fool the Nature spirits.
This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person's fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.
This holiday was interesting to learn about because of its relation to Halloween. Times have changed so now we dress up as cartoon characters and rather then leave food on alters- candy is given out to little kids- which made this holiday very easy to relate to the kids.
For our craft we painted rocks to tie in with the tradition of names written on rocks. Rather then write our names on them and toss them into a fire I let the kids go rock hunting and we painted them to keep.
For our Samhain food we roasted turnips. Turnips are a fall harvest food and rather then carve a turnip like the Celts we decided to eat one. Next time I would do a medley of root veggies. The turnips alone were not to the boys liking. However, my mom often does root veggies roasted with a little pepper, fennel, and paprika and its wonderful!Roasted Turnips With Ginger
Peel and cut turnips into wedges. Toss with grated fresh ginger, olive oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with honey and roast at 400° F until tender. Ours took about 40 min.
Have a festive Samhain and Happy Halloween or All Hallows Eve!