RELIGION
10/27/2014 10:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Samhain 2014: Facts, Dates, Traditions And Rituals To Know

In late October and early November, many Pagans and Wiccans around the globe celebrate Samhain, believed to be an ancient Celtic festival in celebration of autumn harvest and the onset of winter.

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1. Samhain is typically celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1, almost halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

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2. Some modern Pagans consider it the "witch's new year," though other traditions simply recognize Samhain as the end of the year, says Kelley Harrell, the author of 'Gift of the Dreamtime.'

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3. Rituals surrounding Samhain include bonfires, dancing, feasting and building altars to honor deceased ancestors.

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4. It is one of eight annual festivals commonly celebrated by pagans of various traditions, along with Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer, Lughnassad, Mabon and Yule.

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5. It's considered a liminal time, when the veil between life and death grows thin. Food is set aside for ancestors and protective spirits and rituals honoring the dead take place.

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6. Samhain is pronounced "sah-win" or "sow-in."

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7. Samhain is believed to be one of the original festivals behind the holiday we know as Halloween. Some also associate it to the Christian All Saints' Day on November 1.

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8. The Yellow Book of Lecan, a medieval book of tales, reported that people referred to Samhain as the "Feast of Mongfind," a legendary witch-queen who married the King of Tara in old Ireland and was central to ancient Samhain celebrations, Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary writes.

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9. Some of Halloween's most common traditions are rooted in Samhain's harvest festival roots, such as the carving of pumpkins and bobbing for apples.

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10. Some celebrate Samhain with a ritual to guide the dead home by opening a western-facing door or window and placing a candle by the opening.

How do you celebrate Samhain? Let us know in the comments!

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that there were eight annual Celtic festivals, but some debate the direct origins of these holidays.

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