October 31 is known to most people as Halloween. But Halloween is based on the traditional pagan observance of Samhain, one of the most important festivals of the year. It's the final harvest, before the landscape goes barren until the spring. The earth tells us that it is time to slow down, reflect, and go inward for the winter. At this time of year, the veil between the worlds is thin, allowing easier communication with the other side. At Samhain, we especially honor our ancestors with prayer, remembrance, and offerings. We can also make space to memorialize the dead that are not necessarily in our family line, but are part of our hearts and minds. We can remember those killed by recent gun violence, people whose historic sacrifices paved the way for our lives, or cultural icons who inspire us.
Here are five ways to mark the festival:
- Create an ancestor altar. This can be as elaborate or simple as you like. Dedicate space on a table, shelf, windowsill, or outside, to remember those who have gone before you. Include candles, photos, objects that belonged to them, or offerings of their favorite food. Give thanks.
- Set aside time to meditate and communicate with your ancestors. Ask them what lessons you need to contemplate in order to heal the collective wounds of your ancestral line.
- Have a feast to celebrate the abundance of the year and set aside a dish for your dead.
- Declutter and prepare for the increased time indoors.
- Make nourishing food, such as soup, and freeze some for the winter months.