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Patti Wigington

Reader FAQ: Pagans and Halloween

By October 3, 2013

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I wanted to share a post from a couple of years ago, because Samhain is approaching, and I often get emails from folks new to Paganism asking if it's "acceptable" to celebrate both the spiritual holiday of Samhain and the secular candy-snorgling debauchery that is Halloween:

A reader brings up an interesting point, and one worth addressing. She asks, "I was curious if it was anti-Pagan to celebrate Halloween? I'm sort of worried it might seem disrespectful to go out collecting candy while I'm supposed to be honoring the spirits of my dead ancestors. How do Halloween and Samhain relate if at all to one another?"

The short answer here is that you can do anything you like, as long as your tradition of Paganism doesn't have a "no Halloweenery" rule. Think of Samhain and Halloween like this - one is spiritual, one is secular. There's no reason they have to be mutually exclusive at all. You can still observe the fun and silliness of Halloween -- and pig out on candy, if you like -- while maintaining the more somber traditions of honoring the dead at Samhain. For more on this, read the FAQ: Pagans and Halloween.

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September 21, 2009 at 5:30 pm
(1) beatrice says:

this is what i do, and you can too! i set up my circle in my front yard, i use a ring of bug candles to show the outline of my circle, i light the candles at sunset, i have a small washer tub, that i use for my firepit. i light my fire, and i stand at the bottom of my porch steps with a cauldron full of candy. ( i give choloclate for best tricks and costumes) then if they ask about the circle i can inform them of my beliefs. i always dress as a witch, but i am a beautiful witch not an ugly one! and the little witches, love it! i have had pagans of various paths tell me year after year they love it!

September 22, 2009 at 12:26 am
(2) Vandreyer says:

Halloween is one of those celebrations that has been so perverted in so many ways that it’s hard to know what to do. Is it secular? is it pagan? Is it Satanism? I would say research the whoopdie doo out of it and see what traditions grab you, search yourself to honestly say what you expect from or wish to give to the celebration, and define it for yourself. As Patti said there is no reason not to embrace both the secular pig out on candy aspect and the more esoteric honoring of the spirits. It’s the same as having presents for the kids and honoring Christ’s birth (though we all know that is not his real b day) at Christmas or having colored eggs honoring his resurrection at Easter. And I am sure other traditions have similar dichotomies, it’s just that I am most familiar with some of the Christian ones. And I really liked the Dumb Supper that I read about last year. Halloween was always my favorite and not for the candy! Even my stepmother was always a little dumbfounded by this.

September 28, 2009 at 11:22 pm
(3) Jill says:

I am a Satanist so of course its not anti Pagan to celebrate Halloween, that along with one’s own birthday and Walpurgisnacht are the three main holidays in Satanism (solstices and equinoxes can be observed as well. (but I for one forgo celebrations on these days and just mark them as more calendar days than anything)

September 29, 2009 at 8:29 am
(4) anelolani says:

beatrice… what a nice idea…

September 29, 2009 at 10:06 am
(5) Celtic Joie says:

I am of Irish descent & my grandmother, who although not a pagan, always made the dumb supper part of our Halloween celebration. Once I became a mother, I extended that tradition to include pets as well. We not only set a place at out table for our human family and friends who’ve passed on, but leave a bowl out in honor of our pets who’ve passed. My son and I start our day with a special breakfast of apples & cinnamon oatmeal and hot apple cider and then we take a moment to light candles and incense and write notes to those who’ve passed. It’s one of my son’s favorite traditions, equal to trick or treating and costumes.

September 29, 2009 at 1:22 pm
(6) Stonelight says:

I always loved Halloween, it was the one night of the year I could “come out of the broom closet” dress and decorate witchy, honoring the God/ess and it was socially acceptable!

September 29, 2009 at 1:24 pm
(7) Grimalkin, The Grand Crone says:

On Oct. 31st in my hometown (Charleston, WV) there is a city-wide costume party being held at the baseball park. Early evening festivities are geared for younger kids with candy, etc. & later (at dark-thirty) there is an event for adults (16+) with live music, vendors, & Tarot readers. This is the first year such an event has been planned & hopefully it will go well. I’m planning to go to the adult Witches’ Ball with friends & have plenty of fun, but then we plan to retire from the festivities early & gather at midnight at a friend’s house/yard nearby to hold our ‘serious’ candlelight ceremony within a circle. I see nothing particularly wrong with this idea & as one friend said, “…even Christians have Santa & parties if for nothing else than to celebrate the comraderie of friends!”

I say plan to do both…even if your ‘serious’ part is just lighting a candle of rememberance & having a moment of silent meditation in a solitary ritual at your personal altar.

September 29, 2009 at 5:57 pm
(8) LazyWitch says:

I’ve always celebrated Halloween and why not! My Grandmother was a Witch of the Old World and celebrated. We celebrate the thining of the veil and what better time to show our humanity than to youngsters who are having fun. We always give healthy-type snacks (popcorn, etc) and the parents love it. We decorate to the teeth and have become known as the “Halloween House” and are now serving a new generation of “little spooks and goblins” (every year I hear, “I came here when I was little now I’m bringing my baby to see you!”. Makes me feel old but that’s life. This year we are planning on playing a movie out of the window on a screen along with all the decorations.

My “Dinner for the Dead” will begin around 11 pm, long after the trick-or-treaters are in bed and the veil will be at it’s thinest. This year there will be a few new plates and we will celebrate them, too.

I see no conflict. I am who and what I am. This path allows that and I am proud to be a Witch!

October 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm
(9) t"Pan says:

Do as ye want, but harm ye none.

October 25, 2011 at 8:55 am
(10) Angel says:

I celebrate both every year. Although this year it’s going to be more for daddy and daughter. My husband stays gone alot so I’m letting him take her this year. Anyhow. I dressed up the last couple of years as a Pagan ;High Priestess more or less what I already am. I wore my rings, my necklaces supporting my power stones. I put on make up, a long simple black dress, with an old cape I had.

My daughter wanted to go to one of the ‘churches’ trick or treat thing. My mom was laughing. I took her and held my head high with pride. It wasn’t more or less about proving a point, but I wanted people to see me as I was and the fact that I’m not a bad person. I’m just human with a different belief system than theirs. Although i recieved some snide comments, my mother actually said she was proud of how I handled things. I know I probably shouldn’t have done it, but it is our holiday after all. Why shouldn’t I be able to take my daughter where I want? :)

Other Pagans laughed and we all enjoyed a night of honoring our dead and the dead of others.

October 25, 2011 at 10:13 am
(11) DocRocks says:

This past year I lost both my uncle and father. Samhain will take on a much deeper meaning this year. I plan on doing a dumb supper again this Samhain with a Wiccan friend along with Ritual.

Back to the question at hand, most people do not look at Samhain/Halloween as we do in the Pagan community. Yes there are many who look at dressing up in costumes and getting candy as satanic. That baffles me how they can get it so wrong. But these are the same people who get tons of gifts and candy for Christ’s birthday and resurrection.

The great thing about being Pagan- we can make our own rules!

Blessed Be to all this Samhain

October 25, 2011 at 10:14 am
(12) Westlin says:

I do both too…I dress up every year (as a witch, naturally). I go to festivals/trick or treating event with my grandson and daughter (who often dresses as a witch as well, with my grandson dressed as her familiar once–he’s not quite 3 so haven’t been that many times to dress him up). I give out candy from my cauldron (plastic one from wal-mart) to the trick or treaters dressed as a witch, with my spooky decorated dead tree as the backdrop, along with candles lit for those who have passed away (mother, nephew, etc.). After the trick or treaters are gone, I cast a circle, “talk” to those who have gone on, sometimes shed a tear or two, remember and ask their blessing–then, with respect and love, “their” candles are extinguished, one by one. Maybe not a ritual, but honoring and remembering…in a quiet way.

October 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm
(13) Erika says:

This is my first time celebrating, but I can’t really understand why I wouldn’t celebrate Halloween – it’s been my favourite holiday since I was a kid. I’m planning to take my sister trick-or-treating, and celebrate after. /I/ don’t mind, so I can’t see why anyone else would.

October 26, 2011 at 10:59 am
(14) stormdancer343 says:

A couple years ago on Halloween/Samhain Eve I gotout my Scrabble board to play solitary Scrabble. I lita candle and said “if anyone is here give me a message thru these letter tiles.” Then the first three letters I pickedup were B-O-O! I realized if I had someone with me they had a cute sense of humor! Had to be my friend Bret, who had died of Aids..he had a very sarcastic sense of humor! I will try that again this year!

October 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm
(15) S0lvengel says:

I have been celebrating both halloween and Samhain for years now. When my girls were young they would go trick or treating and I’d be dressed all in black with my celtic cross amulet. Now my girls are grown and mom’s themselves, I still dress all in black and wear my celtic cross amulet when I answer the door to trick or treaters.

For Samhain this is the first year I have spent the time to make my own ritual to honour and remember my mom and brother who passed last year and to remember all other family. I didn’t know what it was called, the dumb diner, I have done that for years since my mom used to for all family holiday’s to remember those who could not be with us in body but in spirit. After dinner my candles will be lit and I’ll sit quietly with the old photo albums remembering and talking to all who come and visit, later I’ll cast my circle and do the ritual I put together (it took me months of research and weeks to tweak it). Hubby has asked if he should leave me alone or if I want him with me, I told him I’d love for him to be with me but understand if he’s not comfortable with that since he’s not following a wiccian path. He’s slowly understanding that wiccia is a beautiful and not to be feared.

October 28, 2011 at 3:22 am
(16) aurora_after_midnight says:

I make a big deal about both! Every year starting around the 1st of October the house is Decorated and made spooky, I live in an apartment so we decorate the inside window so that it faces out where the kids can see them! We make it a point to watch our favourite Halloween movies, which usually aren’t scary (things like Hocus Pocus, Garfield’s Halloween Special, things that bring us good memories of Halloweens past) Closer to Samhain we start deciding on the rituals etc that we want to perform. We prepare a large feast and leave the place settings out for those we have lost, We don’t generally keep it to this year, but anyone who has been important in our lives who are no longer here.(This year we will have 4 place settings) We were invited to 2 halloween parties this year which would have thrown our usual plans off a little, but it was worked around it so that we could have both the religious and secular aspects. I find that a lot of people , even our christian friends have really respected that we are busy later in the evening and 2 sets of friends have made their parties on different days or earlier in the day so that we can have the ability to be home for our religious practices. I think it’s really all about balance. I know when we have kids we plan to teach them about both aspects.

October 3, 2012 at 8:21 am
(17) Blindfate says:

This is a question I myself had to find an answer to also, not just with this time of year but with with other times that have religiously conflicting holidays. See, I have a 9 year old daughter who is Baptist and the majority of my family is of one Christian denomination or another. So what I do is seperate them. I honor my family’s traditions but set aside time where I can honor mine as well.

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