I can't believe it's only 29 Days until Samhain, or the Witch's New Year. Over the next few weeks I plan to do quite a few entries on Samhain, starting with the pronunciation. Samhain is pronounced "Sow-en." Samhain starts the evening of October 31st and ends the evening of November 1st. During the forced conversion of the Pagan people to Christianity, the Catholic Church created the holidays All Hallows Eve (Halloween) on October 31st, All Saints Day on November 1st, and All Souls Day on November 2nd. They did this to make the conversion of the Pagans smoother, just as they did with other holidays, such as Easter (the Pagan holiday Ostara) and Christmas (the Pagan holiday Yule).
Samhain is the most solemn of the Pagan festivals; we remember our ancestors that night. The veil between our world (the mundane) and the spirit world is thinnest on Samhain. If most of us think about it, even those who are not Pagan, you can feel a distinct difference around you once the sun goes down on October 31st. It's almost like the air is crackling energy, I've always felt it but didn't know what to call it until I became a witch.
Contrary to popular opinion, Samhain does not have anything to do with evil, Satan, sacrificing animals, or sacrificing anything alive for that matter... If we offer a sacrifice to the Gods and/or Goddesses, it is usually something like wine, mead, or food. We never sacrifice animals, or any living thing. There is not evil god named Samhain that we worship, and we Pagans love cats, we certainly don't harm them. We don't drink blood, steal souls, or do any of the evil things we are accused of, and we are not Satanists or Devil worshippers.
Samhain, and hence Halloween, is an ancient Celtic holiday, that is directly across the Wheel of the Year from Beltane, our biggest fertility festival, that is also Celtic. It is important to remember that not all Pagans celebrate the all or any of the holidays on the Wheel of the Year, but I do.
Samhain celebrations commonly involve apples, a bonfire, carving pumpkins or turnips, and different ways of remembering our ancestors, such as a dumb supper. It isn't just a solemn holiday, though, we also have to remember to have joy and love in our hearts as we start the new year.