Happy new year, it’s Samhain!

This is the final post in this year’s series of highlighting the Pagan holidays. It has made me think more about the days in question, even if I haven’t exactly done anything in particular to celebrate them. For a Pagan, I’m seriously secular! 😉

Today, we celebrate Samhain, which is also known as the Pagan new year. The time between now and the Winter Solstice is a never-never land of sorts, because the new year doesn’t start tomorrow morning, it starts in December. The lore says that on this day, the God draws his final breath. He is to be re-born in December, but meanwhile, he’s indisposed, so to speak.

Samhain is celebrated when the veil between this life and the Other Side is at its thinnest, and with that, we celebrate the lives of those who have passed on. When Christianity came along, this was turned into a celebration of the saints – All Hallow’s Eve – and then of course there’s what we today celebrate as Halloween. Personally, I don’t celebrate Halloween (although I did use it as an excuse once to come dressed as a Hogwarts student to work), because as far as I’m concerned, it’s way too commercial – another thing to make us buy things we don’t need and would only use once and then throw away. Then there’s the thing of it primarily being an American holiday which has been exported to the rest of the world because we’re far too Americanised to dare say no. (Yes, I’m aware Halloween originated in Ireland. That’s beside the point.)

First ones I ever made, very small ones,
but they do look dreadfully cheerful!

To make a lantern out of a pumpkin, that can go hand in hand with the Pagan practices by lighting the way for the dead, using seasonal produce and make nice food. Trick or treating, while based on soul caking, is not more than glorified begging. Maybe next year I should bake soul cakes and open the door and give them that, and give the greedy brats a lecture about heritage, as opposed to simply ignoring the very occasional knock on the door. When I lived in Sweden, I actually would open the door, only to tell them that Halloween is an American tradition and not an observed holiday in Sweden – upon which the trick-or-treaters would look heartily bemused and leave.

So there. Feel free to tell me I’m an anti-American killjoy all you like. I don’t enjoy plastic spiders or people dressing up like stereotypical witches, and while I’ve got nothing against Halloween (or indeed America) as such, I do mind when commercial interests try to impose it on the rest of the western world as a way to exploit the market and get more money.

If anything, I’d like to see more emphasis on celebrating our deceased loved ones – in Sweden, this is done around the first weekend of November, by lighting candles at the graves in the cemeteries, and maybe put down some sort of flower arrangement. It seems a lot more dignified than seeing your local supermarket staff all pretending to be Dracula.

One I made a few years ago.

So, happy Samhain – it’s a great time to let go of old troubles. On a piece of paper, write down all the things that keep nagging your thoughts and then set fire to that paper and watch it go up in flames. You’ll feel a lot better for it. Or just spare a thought to your dearly departed and light a candle – or pumpkin lantern – in their memory, and remember them as they would have wanted you to remember them – with love. No tricks or treats to it.

Previous posts about Neo-Pagan holidays:

  1. Yule (Winter Solstice)
  2. Imbolc (2 February)
  3. Ostara (Spring Equinox)
  4. Beltane (30 April)
  5. Litha (Summer Solstice)
  6. Lammas or Lughnasadh (1/2 August)
  7. Mabon (Autumn Equinox)
  8. Samhain (31 October)

(Next year’s theme will be Swedish holidays and customs, but I might just start that one a little early, seeing as the first one technically kicks off in November …)

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