10 Samhain Traditions for the Pagan Family from Dinners to Bonfires
Samhain is the ancient Celtic pagan festival of the dead celebrated in modern times on October 31st. Yes, Halloween is based on this old pagan holiday when people believed the ancestors and dead could visit the physical realm more readily. If you’d like to incorporate family Samhain traditions into your celebrations, we have a few simple ones for you.
Simple Family Samhain Traditions
Samhain can be an event for the whole family, whether your family calls it Halloween or not. Halloween traditions double as Samhain traditions and are family-friendly.
1. Carving Pumpkins
Carving pumpkins, a.k.a. jack o’ lanterns, is an old Celtic Samhain tradition except in Ireland they didn’t have pumpkins so they carved turnips. Turnips were made into creepy little faces and used to guard a home from malevolent spirits that walked the earth on Samhain night. Carry on this Samhain tradition by carving pumpkins with your family.
2. Bobbing for Apples
In addition to the typical Samhain tradition of carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples is affordable and appropriate for the whole family. All you need is a washbasin or cauldron, water, and apples and BAM! A fun Samhain tradition for the entire family.
3. Samhain Traditional Bonfire
Having a bonfire is another customary Samhain tradition the whole family will enjoy. Fire is symbolic of the sun and is a great way to pay homage to the god for providing his light and warmth to us this year. Roast marshmallows, tell ghost stories, and since Samhain is the new year, throw your old troubles from this year (written on a piece of paper or wood) into the fire and watch them fade. Make your new years resolutions now…so more it be!
4. Visit Ancestors’ Graves
Another simple Samhain tradition is to visit your ancestors’ graves. This is also customary in Mexico on the Day of the Dead to visit and celebrate one’s ancestors’ graves. Visit the cemetery during the day with the family to avoid any hooligans or problems in the cemetery on Halloween night. Decorate their graves with flowers and leave offerings out of respect.
5. Samhain Traditional Dinner Party
How about throwing a small celebratory Samhain party for your family? Or simply making a Samhain meal? A Samhain meal is anything that reminds us of Autumn and the harvest…breads, squashes, leafy green vegetables, corn, herbed chickens or meats, apple cider, candied apples, pumpkin pie, apple pie, soup, acorn squash, green beans, etc. Make it delicious and make it a Samhain meal worth remembering.
6. Dumb Supper
If you’re already making a large meal, try having a dumb supper. A dumb supper is where all members of the dinner party are silent throughout the meal. The meal becomes an actual ritual in which the ancestors are called to join the table and so it is critical to remain silent to allow the ancestors to manifest and/or speak to us in whatever way they can.
7. Resolutions / Goals
Since Samhain traditionally marks the Celtic New Year, now’s the time for pagans to make New Years Resolutions. Sure, you can wait until New Years Eve BUT your resolutions will be more powerful if set on Samhain night. The whole family can join in on this one, too.
8. Ancestor Altars
In addition to having a meal and inviting the ancestors, setting up ancestor altars is also a Samhain tradition for many pagans and witches. The ancestor altar should be separate from your regular altar. It could include photos of ancestors, items they liked, heirlooms, flowers, etc.
9. Costumes as Samhain Tradition
Laurie Cabot (the official witch of Salem) says witches dress up on Samhain in costumes that reflect their intentions for the new year. What does this mean for your family? If your son wants to be a superhero, this brings more courage in the new year. When you dress up as Lady Luck, you’re bringing more luck into your life. Etc. Get creative with your costumes and have fun!
10. Samhain Ritual
If you can go outside, sit beside the fire or light a candle and do your normal ritual routine – ground, center, and cast your circle. Call the quarters and welcome the God and Goddess to your Samhain traditional ritual. Write your own ritual to honor the gods/goddesses and thank them for the harvest. Or borrow a ritual from a trusted pagan author, such as Scott Cunningham or Laurie Cabot. Give each family member a line/duty to perform during ritual.