Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows' Eve: what's it all mean anyway?

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Answered by: Helen, An Expert in the Paganism and Wicca - General Category
October 31st is a day filled with candy, masks, costumes, and all around ghoulishly delightful fun. You get to dress up as your favorite superhero, or maybe a villian from those classic comics and no one bats an eye at it, after all, it IS Halloween. The one night of the year it's okay for all the little children to go door to door asking their neighbors for a sweet treat and hoping to avoid those scary little tricks. People are excited and hearts are racing, waiting to see what's going to jump out from behind the next tree to make them scream in terrific terror.



But really, where in the world did these customs come from? Much like a 3-year-old following his mother around, we have reached the time to ask that one simple question: why??

Halloween, All Hallows' Eve, Samhain, whatever you wish to call it, the meaning is the same. It's the Day of the Dead. A time to honor and remember our loved ones lost. A night when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest, and so we light candles to guide our dearly departed through the afterlife, lest they become lost and stuck in this world with us forever.

Sounds a little grim doesn't it? It really isn't meant to be, despite all the negative publicity of ghouls and goblins and ghosts. In times past, the spirits of the dead were meant to be honored and respected, never feared. But ghosts aren't the only reason to celebrate on the Eve of November. It's also the marker of the end of the harvest season, the welcoming of the winter months to come.



So...how do you celebrate the end of the harvest? Why, with a feast of course! Although, in modern culture, it would seem the feast is primarily of candy corn and chicklets rather than roasted corn and baked chicken. In history, this was the time the last of the crops would be gathered from the fields and brought in to supply food for the winter ahead. All Hallows' Eve is a night to celebrate and thank the gods for the abundant crops and ask that the food last the cold ahead until the spring crops began to bud.

But...what's the point of the masks and costumes? Sure they're loads of fun, but really...what does an 8-year old boy dressed as Bugs Bunny have to do with honoring the dead or harvesting the crops?? Well, that dates back to the Celts, who wore animal skins and masks to scare off the spirits, after all, there's nothing worse than a ghost with a sense of humor. How does one tell a ghost their pranks aren't as funny as they think?

Regarless how you choose to celebrate, enjoy your night of festivities and remember to honor the dead and say a few words to your loved ones no longer with you. So, until we meet again, enjoy your feast, light your candles, and Happy Hauntings!

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