Samhain (pronounced Sowan) is better known today as Halloween. Over the years, its had many names, one of them was All Hallows Eve, and that was shortened, over many years, to Halloween. However, what are its origins? One of them is Samhain, the Celtic New Year.
The Celtic New Year is when the vale between the living, the dead and the world of the fae (fairy) is thin. Spirits of the dead wander the earth, some nice and others not so nice. The Celts dressed up in costumes, to hide them selves from the evil spirits who wanted to live again. Carrying carved turnips (and I’ve heard that they also carved cabbages) to light their way at night. Its gets so dark there, that you cannot see your hand in front of your face, and you do not want to fall into a ditch (it gets super cold really fast, I’ve been in Ireland, so I know) cause you’ll be there till morning. The faces carved into these vegetables was supposed to scare away these ghosts and the mischievous fairies.
The fairies or the good people, came out at this time to have “fun” (aka cause trouble) and to punish anyone who wronged them. Wearing costumes meant that they couldn’t find you, and leaving offerings of food at their homes meant that they would ignore you that night and maybe, maybe forgive you for whatever wrong you did them.
So this explains the costumes at Halloween, but what where did the candy and the pumpkin come from?
When the Irish came to America, the turnip was expensive, and the pumpkin was cheap. That and, it was plentiful and much easier to carve. The candy however, is from Scotland (or so I’ve read). So put these together, add the in the mischief and the victorian era (i think) and you’ve got Halloween.
Since my dad grew up in Ireland, we don’t celebrate Halloween with all of the weird and gory decorations. When me and my sister were younger, we had the pumpkin, and we’d carve it. We wouldn’t light a candle in it, cause mom would make pumpkin muffins and the seeds were baked. We had lights in the windows, and paper decorations hung in the windows depicting witches, ghosts and the jack o’lantern. We hung an old witch costume on the door, (no one could wear it cause it was too small). Now however, no more pumpkin (no time to bake or carve), and the decorations are buried somewhere in the cellar. The street that we are on now, is not a major traffic area, like our old one, so we never get any trick or treaters (hence no more decorating, we live on a dead end). I still dress up, and eat the candy that my dad always buys for some weird reason.
So yes, we pagans can dress up in costumes and celebrate this Holiday/Sabbat in any way that we choose. So get out there, decorate and have fun!