A Different Take: Samhain

For pagans, it's not trick-or-treat - it's Samhain

For many people, Halloween goes something like this: Throwing some fake cobwebs and plastic spiders around the house, shelling out money for pre-packaged costumes and feasting on fun-sized candy bars. If you're looking to break out of the rut this October, Celebrate Samhain - a Pagan festival dedicated to age-old Celtic traditions of celebrating the final harvest and the dead - offers a very different take on Halloween.

"Samhain marks the beginning of the dark half of the year," explains co-organizer Jess G. "At this point in the yearly cycle, the veil between the worlds - of the living and of those gone by - is at its thinnest."

That belief, notes Jess, makes Samhain the perfect time to celebrate the past.

"Celebrate Samhain is an occasion for everyone to celebrate the final harvest and ancestors past," she says.

Jess says Samhain is also a time for reflection and charity.

"Samhain is a time to take stock of all we have gathered in our lives, and to be grateful," she says. "That's why a food drive has always been part of Celebrate Samhain."

Further, Jess stresses that Samhain's Pagan roots and ties to death do not make it evil or scary. She says that Paganism is often poorly portrayed in popular culture, and that many people simply do not understand the belief system.

Jess promises that this year's festival, which will take place on October 19, will be quite a celebration. The day, which attracts 500-600 visitors annually, will feature music performances, speeches and workshops, vendors, food and a closing ritual.

And, Jess says, the day's festivities aren't limited to Pagans.

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