The Meaning of Samhain and Why We Celebrate
Samhain was a Gaelic harvest festival held on October 31November 1. It was linked to festivals held around the same time in other Celtic cultures, and was popularised as the "Celtic New Year" from the late 19th century, following Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer. The date of Samhain was associated with the Catholic All Saints' Day (and later All Souls' Day) from at least the 8th century, and both the secular Gaelic and the Catholic liturgical festival have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween.
The medieval Goidelic festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half". It was celebrated over the course of several days and had some elements of a Festival of the Dead. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.
Samhain is celebrated as a religious festival by some neopagans.
Wiccans and Pagans around have celebrated Samhain, many of us make altars for Samhain to celebrate our ancestors. spirits and the dead. Samhain altars can be made out of anything. They can be placed on the floor, table stands, dressors, pretty much just about anything that can hold an altar.
The History of Samhain
Samain or Samuin was the name of the feis or festival at the beginning of winter observed in medieval Ireland. It is attested in Old Irish literature beginning in the 10th century. The festival marked the end of the season for trade and warfare and was an ideal date for tribal assemblies, where the local kings gathered their people. These gatherings in turn are a popular setting for early Irish tales.
Neo-Paganism and Samhain
Samhain is observed by various Neopagans in various ways. As forms of Neopaganism can differ widely in both their origins and practices, these representations can vary considerably despite the shared name. Some Neopagans have elaborate rituals to honor the dead, and the deities who are associated with the dead in their particular culture or tradition. Some celebrate in a manner as close as possible to how the Ancient Celts and Living Celtic cultures have maintained the traditions, while others observe the holiday with rituals culled from numerous other unrelated sources, Celtic culture being only one of the sources used
Samhain is one of the eight annual festivals, often referred to as 'Sabbats', observed as part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It is considered by most Wiccans to be the most important of the four 'greater Sabbats'. It is generally observed on October 31 in the Northern Hemisphere, starting at sundown. Samhain is considered by some Wiccans as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones who have died. In some rituals the spirits of the departed are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the spring festival of Beltane, which Wiccans celebrate as a festival of light and fertility.