By: Nikki Savage

Autumn finds its stride in October. The light of day begins to wane and a slight chill begins to settle in the air. In tune with the cues of the season, the plants begin to direct their energies to their roots ensuring their survival through the winter. Like the plants, the farmer reaps his final harvest of both crop and livestock for storage ensuring the community’s survival through the winter.

In times when people lived in sync with the Earth’s seasons, the final harvest would traditionally culminate into a celebration of all that had come to fruition before preparing to draw their energies within for the leaner times ahead. In the pre-Christian Celtic regions, this celebration was called Samhain [sow en], loosely translated from Gaelic meaning “summer’s end”. Celebrated on November 1st, midway between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice, Samhain was considered the Celtic New Year.

People would gather in their villages, setting fire to the bones of the slaughtered livestock. It is said, each family would then light a torch from these bonfires to bring to their own hearths to warm their homes. It was believed that on this eve of the descent into the darkest part of the year, the veil between the worlds of the living and the departed was at its thinnest. Thus it naturally became a time of honoring ancestors and seeking guidance through divination. To protect themselves from unwanted visits, some would light hollowed turnips carved with faces and place them around their homes, and some donned guises of otherworldly beings to fool the harmful spirits.

As was common when regions became Christianized, traditional pagan celebrations and Christian holidays that held similar sentiment became entwined. The traditions of Samhain blended well with those of All Souls Day and Hallowmas. Eventually this space of time came to be known as Halloween.

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