Samhain: A Time of Introspection

Though Halloween is long-since past that does not mean the celebrating necessarily ends at the stroke of midnight for all people. Though traditionally raised Roman-Catholic on both the Sicilian and Irish sides of my family, a cultural practice we still uphold is the yearly celebration of the pagan holiday Samhain.

Traditionally stretching from October 31 to November 1, Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter as the longest night of the year. Though normally recognized historically as being a singularly Gaelic holiday until the coming of Catholicism in late 1899, Samhain, along with every last one of the other seven pagan holidays and astrological cycles, was celebrated extensively throughout all the world, in every culture, in every land, each with their own unique twists.

Samhain is a silent dinner, a time for meditation and intersection, a time to commune with those ancestors long since past (or to avoid them as you so wish). It is a time to let go of those burdens that may lay heavy in your heart as you prepare for the hardships, cold, and depression of the coming winter.

The dinner is a time of companionship and somber remembering. After the silence has been lifted, after the feast has been partaken of by all parties present, the plate of the ancestors seen to and the remaining dishware cleared away, it is a time for stories and songs, memories and mementoes, sharing and laughing and crying with all family present, blood or no, living or no. Pagans believe Samhain is also the time of which the veil between worlds is thinnest, thus allowing for the spirits of our ancestors, or those loved ones we have lost, both good and ill, to cross over into the land of the living once more for this one night and be with us in our time of celebration.

For the religion of my family this means homemade spaghetti and meatballs, well-baked Italian bread and olive oil, baked potatoes, orange yams and steamed vegetables. Whiskey, sangria and juice for those that can not drink. It means amaretto for my grandmother’s ghost and a Manhattan for my great-grandmother who drank them until she was 90 years old. It means war stories and battle scars and tales about the Depression and my grandfather inevitably insulting somebody when he tells us how it all really went. It means togetherness and sorrow and tears. Oh, yes. Lots and lots of tears. It means cursing and laughing and spittle when we end talking faster than our minds can catch up. It means happiness and togetherness and sharing in grief and sorrow and joy and to this day still remains one of the greatest, happiest cultural traditions my family has ever upheld.

Perhaps something we could all benefit from, eh?

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