Samhain is the third and final harvest festival and is celebrated anywhere between October 31st and the first week of November. This registers the end of the growing season and the beginning of winter.
The last of the harvest is taken in and handled and preserved for the long winter months ahead. The livestock is taken out of the summer fields and taken to their winter home. Animals that are not going to make it through the winter for whatever reason, are processed for food. This also reduces the strain of feeding them through the winter and reduces sickness while they are in close quarters in their winter homes.
Preparations are in full sway for the long dark winter months ahead. Once again, this is a community wide festival to celebrate and honor the deities of the occasion for the success of the years growing season and for protection for the dark half of the year.
Beltaine was the beginning of summer or the light half of the year and special bonfires were lit and a ritual fire symbolizing cleansing was done. The same is done for the beginning of the dark half of the year. As is the custom, the people would light their sticks and bring it back to their hearths to relight their homes fires.
This time is considered a time when the veil between the worlds are thinner and communication with the spirits and dead are easier. Symbolizing the spirits, the people would dress up and go door to door playing tricks and collecting treats. Thus, the origins for the modern day customs of Halloween. Instead of carving pumpkins, they would carve turnips. And when feasting, they set a place for the dead also.
This is the beginning of the Celtic new year. A great time for divining and finding out what is in store for the upcoming year.
As you are making your final preparations for the winter, this is a good time to reflect on life and death; a time to honor our ancestors; a time to go within and cultivate and nurture your soul with rest, crafts, and staying warm by the fires.
Happy New Year!