Samhain is an ancient harvest Celtic festival that celebrates a new year and the beginning of winter. This ancient Pagan Festival came before Halloween. In fact, most of the population are unaware that trick-or-treating and dressing up in Halloween costumes really originated with Samhain, an ancient, three-day Celtic Pagan festival. The Celts believed that the new year began during the start of winter in November.
Around 2,000 years ago, in Celtic Ireland, Samhain was noted as the division of a year, between summer, which was the lighter half, and the winter, which was the darker half. The new year was ushered in signaling a time of rebirth and death. This was especially symbolic as it coincided with the bountiful harvest season coming to an end and a cold, dark winter season ahead that would present many challenges.
To understand what Samhain is all about, it is important to recognize how the year’s calendar is structured and how it affects the Celtic’s religious practices. According to experts, a lot of modern pagan practice focuses on what most refer to as the “wheel of the year”, which in Celtic worship is a major determining factor.
As mentioned, the Celtic year is divided by the light and dark halves of the seasons, which are demarcated by two of the four annual festivals. In between, ceremonies or rituals were celebrated to mark solstices (the shortest or longest nights) and equinoxes (when the days and nights are equal). The fire festival known as Samhain marks the start of the year’s dark half that takes place between “the autumn equinox” and “winter solstice”.
Some believe that the veil between our worlds is blurred during this Samhain festival, meaning the other world of the Gods visible to humankind. Not to mention that spirits and ghosts of the dead from the otherworld return to walk the earth during Samhain.