Blessed Samhain to you!
Some easy, no-nonsense facts:
Samhain can be mispronounced due to it sounding nothing like how it’s spelled. It can be pronounced as sah-win or sow-in, but not sam-hAn. It is typically celebrated from sunset on October 31st to sunset on November 1st in the Northern Hemisphere. Though some who practice choose to celebrate anytime the few days before and/or after October 31st or instead on the full moon closest to that date.
And what exactly is Samhain?
It’s simply a festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. This is the third and final harvest festival of the year, following Lughnasagh and Mabon, and focuses on the harvest of nuts and apples. As a Gaelic seasonal festival, (like Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh) it was historically observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man and was used as a time to take stock of food supplies and the domesticated herds in order to prepare for the upcoming winter.
What isn’t Samhain?
Well, it’s not a ceremony of devil-worship that includes animal sacrifices like some people will have you believe. If you’re not already familiar with Paganism or a branch of the religion, then you should know that within those beliefs Satan doesn’t exist and many Pagans follow some kind of moral code that would never include the harming of any kind of living creature.
This is a time when the barrier between the spirit world and world of the living is thin, so we honor those that have passed with celebration and remembrance.
So what do people do to celebrate? Some people celebrate by having feasts, bonfires, dancing, and/or making altars. Others simply set a place at dinner or light candles in windows for their lost loved ones. Some pagans perform rituals honoring the dead and other protective spirits. An aspect of a celebration can be as simple as carving a pumpkin or bobbing for apples. El Dia de los Muertos is very similar and Halloween is often considered the Celtic Day of the Dead which some pagans incorporate into their own celebration. Halloween and All Saints Day stemmed from Samhain practices, with the dressing up and appreciating important people who have since passed on.
I could go on and on about what can be done in order to celebrate this sabbat, but really it’s up to you. I’d recommend checking out this site for more ideas.