“Is it anti-Pagan to celebrate Halloween? How do Halloween and Samhain relate, if at all, to one another? I grew up loving Halloween, but it now seems disrespectful to me to go out collecting candy while I’m supposed to be honoring the spirits of my dead ancestors.”
There is no contradiction between Halloween and Samhain, because they are separate entities. However much Evangelical Christians rant about the Pagan origins of Halloween and it’s supposed root in evil and demonic energy, blah blah blah, modern Halloween celebrations actually have very little to do with the seasons origins. Here at PaganCentric, we largely view Halloween as a secular celebration that occurs on October 31st and Samhain as a religious celebration that begins at midnight on November 1st when October becomes November (well, technically, it begins at sundown on Samhain’s Eve). Traditionally, November 1st is Samhain. October 31st is Halloween. There’s no reason Pagans can’t celebrate both. Just remember to take a moment in your Halloween revelries to take note of the calendar rolling over to November 1st, which is, for us at least, the beginning of the Pagan new year.
Much like Yule and Christmas, Samhain and Halloween are two different ways of observing the same time of year. Think of Samhain as the spiritual version, and Halloween as the secular. There’s no reason at all why you can’t celebrate both if you choose.
A small portion of the Pagan community finds the whole Halloween thing off-putting. If it doesn’t feel right to you, then don’t do it. If you’re one of those folks who feel that Halloween trivializes Samhain, don’t celebrate it. But if you want to celebrate both, there’s no conflict. There’s no reason you can’t observe the solemnity of Samhain in addition to the fun of Halloween. A bunch of kids collecting candy and dressed like pirates and monsters shouldn’t challenge Pagans’ religious beliefs any more than Santa Claus should contradict Christians’ during the Yule season. If your ancestors know that you honor and respect them, they won’t be troubled by the inclusion of a Snickers bar or the consumption of liquid spirits. Just don’t get the two confused and light a candle on your alter for the Frankenstein monster!
In the end, it’s a matter of personal choice. I know Christians who do not celebrate the secular aspects of Christmas, who don’t put up a tree or adorn their homes with images of Santa Claus. For them that is a matter of preference. But most Christians don’t find a conflict between the secular celebrations and the spiritual, and neither should Pagans during Halloween and Samhain. If Halloween bothers you, don’t celebrate. If it doesn’t and you want to enjoy the secular celebration of Halloween, don’t fret. The only person who can tell you what is right and proper for you IS you.
~ Wicasta Lovelace