Social media during a sabbat is usually cool, usually just lots of people saying “Happy Whatever.” This year though, I can’t help but feel lots of people are pooping on my Samhain. “Samhain is NOT October 31” “Halloween mocks Samhain” blah blah blah. Celebrate when you want, how you want and don’t let anyone tell you different.
SAMHAIN IS A SEASON, NOT A DAY
The sabbats were made for us, we weren’t made for the sabbats. The time to celebrate a sabbat is when you can celebrate the sabbat. For most of us that probably means over the weekend. Most of my Samhain celebrations occur on Friday and Saturday regardless of when Oct. 31 or any other day falls on the calendar. The world does not just suddenly turn on a dime because a certain calendar date pops up.
(Even on the solstices things aren’t as cut and dried as you might think. In New York City the latest sunrise of the year is not the Winter Solstice it’s January 4 and 5, and the earliest sunset of the year is December 8! The world is complicated!)
This year I’ve noticed an increase in concerned memes and people informing me that Samhain is on November 7. The date of November 7 is used by some Witches for Samhain because it represents the more precise moment when much of the Northern Hemisphere is between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice. For those who are really keeping score at home this is a fine date to use for Samhain, however . . .
Using such a date suggests the Irish-Celts who originally celebrated Samhain gave a shit about the equinoxes and solstices, when I’m not really sure that they did. There’s some evidence suggesting that they might have celebrated the Summer Solstice, but the equinoxes? Nope, not a bit of evidence. The original four “greater sabbats” were the start of seasons, not days in the middle of seasons.
I’ll go one step further here, the cross-quarter days line up quite nicely with each other when the solstices and equinoxes are removed. Samhain and Beltane are 183 days apart, or half a year, just like they are supposed to be. If you want to move Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lammas each back a week, be my guest, but those dates work just fine for the rest of us. I’m not wrong for celebrating Samhain on Oct. 31, and you aren’t wrong for celebrating it on Nov. 7 if that’s your preference. .
For those of you who are waving your hands in the back and pointing out that the calendar has changed over the centuries, you are right! Today we use the Gregorian Calendar, which has been the way of it in occupied North American and Great Britain since 1752. Currently the Gregorian Calendar is about 13 days ahead of the Julian Calendar. In other words, November 7 on our calendar is not October 31 but October 25! Not even the change over in calendars magickally puts Oct. 31 on November 7.
And again, Samhain is a season, not a day. The best Samhain ritual I’ve ever been a part of occurred on November 2, and I’ve celebrated Samhain as late as November 11 and as early as October 20. The veil between the worlds was thin during that entire time! It felt like Samhain on any day I’ve celebrated Samhain because Samhain occurs when we celebrate it!
The ancient Irish-Celts who celebrated Samhain did very little that would remind of us Halloween. Despite the terrible memes you might have read this Sahmahin-season, they didn’t dress up in costumes or even celebrate their dead. We know very little about ancient Samhain, and most of what “we think we know” comes from inaccurate books written at the turn of the 20th Century.
Does any of this matter? Not in the least. I associate Samhain with the dead because I feel those energies at the end of October/start of November. The historicity of exactly how Samhain was celebrated in 52 CE is inconsequential to my own rituals and rites.
Much of why Samhain feels so vital and important is because it feels like everyone else around us is celebrating it too! No one is stealing Samhain or making it less meaningful because they are dressing up as a sexy witch or Batman. Christians have been celebrating Halloween for nearly a 1000 years and adding to it too! Jack-o-lanterns may be from Ireland, but that doesn’t mean they were from the Irish-Celts.
Holidays are giant melting pots full of lots of ingredients. It’s true that Halloween might have some pagan roots, but it also has Catholic ones, and Aztec ones, and Protestant ones . . . . and lots of secular shit unrelated to any religion or specific culture. If someone wants to celebrate Halloween they are not less of a Witch for doing so, and most certainly no one is insulting your religion by celebrating Halloween.
And don’t lament the commercialization of Halloween either. Before Halloween was commercialized it wasn’t much of a holiday, it was simply a day to engage in petty vandalism. Costumes, candy, and haunted houses have made it better, not worse. And if you don’t like those things, don’t dress up, don’t pass out candy, and just stay indoors. The only way to trivialize my Witch-holiday is to openly mock Witchcraft and Samhain, and good luck to the idiot that does that.
Sabbats and secular holidays are what we make of them. They don’t necessarily fall on a particular day, and there is no right or wrong way to celebrate any of them. Do what works for you, be respectful of those around you and other cultures, and do what you can when you can.
Alternative Titles for this Article:
Don’t Shit on my Samhain
Hands off My Holiday!
No Holier Than Thou Samhain
When Does the Samhain Bell Toll? Whenever You Want it To!