Creating family traditions or finding ways to celebrate the festivals with children can be tricky. Here are some ideas from the children and families team on how they celebrate with their children, aged 10 months to teenagers.
My favourite time of year, yay! I get so excited when the wheel does its final turn, not because I’m excited for it to be over but because its the season I feel most connected too. I feel like a lot of pagans can sympathise with me. This will be my first Samhain with a 10 month old and I’m eager to get him to engage in some activities. Samhain is also my mothers birthday so its always been a big celebration in our household. This year I plan on going full out. Mostly because this Samhain won’t be your typical “going out trick or treating or having fancy dress parties” kind of year due to restrictions that don’t look likely to be lifted in our area. So I really want to focus on honouring our ancestors and having a more “traditional” Samhain. We will be having a big roast dinner as family, setting a place at the table for our loved ones who can’t join us. We will be setting up an ancestral altar as well. Now that we have moved into our new house we will have quite a lot of garden waste so a bonfire might be in order as well. I want my little boy to understand that this time of year isn’t just all about dressing up and sweets (which is fun as well don’t get me wrong). Family, past and present, are going to be the focus of our Samhain celebrations. I hope this has given you some ideas for your celebrations with little ones.
This Samhain I have a 3 year old to celebrate with. They are now at an age where they can be more involved and have an understanding of some of the activities, if not why do we do them.
We’re very fortunate to have an allotment with apple trees, so we will pick some apples together and make crumble for pudding as well as helping to juice some for a warm spiced apple drink.
I always make an ancestors altar at Samhain and this year my little dilophosaurus can help me put out the trinkets and photos of family who have past and I can tell the stories about who they were and my memories of them, particularly my grandparents and aunt, who my child was nearly named after.
We will also be doing lots of drawing and painting in the seasonal colours and themes, to display round the room, and make garlands strung from leaves we’ve collected of cut our from sugar paper.
Our pumpkin at the allotment is still only small so we will probably make a “carved pumpkin” from a paper plate and put that in the window instead as our Jack O’ lantern.
Samhain, as an Irish Celtic festival, has a special place in my wheel of the year and is one I love to share with the kids. However, they also love Halloween, so we try and combine the two and have some spooky fun! The ten year old and I have set up a collaborative Pinterest board full of crafty ideas, such as spooky lanterns and DIY puppet shows. I look at ways to make these safe for the younger kids, like by using LED candles instead of real flame.
Due to the current pandemic situation, we won’t be going trick or treating, but we will have a big feast and make sure we cook something together – a tradition reminiscent of the Dumb Supper whereby dishes are laid out for those who have passed and who may visit again at this time.
Above all, we tell stories. The eldest likes ghost stories and anything grim or scary, so if it’s dry enough, we’ll have a fire outside in my fire pit, take torches and marshmallows, and try and give each other chills. He tells stories about cryptids and urban legends while I regale him with tales of the old Irish gods and goddesses. We meet somewhere in the middle, and everyone has a great time.
As my kids have gotten older (they are ten and seven now) I’ve found it harder and harder to avoid to commercial Halloween which all their friends are celebrating. So I’ve gone for a policy of embracing it, whilst also making time for a quiet family celebration. Usually we light a candle and talk about our ancestors, my two love hearing stories of the grandparents they never had a chance to meet. A friend of mine once said that you “get your grief out” at Samhain and I always find it an emotional time. I think its good for our children to see us acknowledging our feelings and also to learn that however painful, we make these feelings part of us. I hope that chatting with our ancestors at Samhain shows them a positive way to honour their own grief, which I also hope they won’t feel for a very long time.
Samhain has always been the most celebrated of the festivals in our house. When my kids were little, we enjoyed carving our pumpkins, apple bobbing, making shrunken heads, nature walks, spooky stories, family stories and sharing our celebration meal with those who have gone before us (Dumb Supper). As my kids got older and were more influenced by the global Americanisation of the celebration, it became more about the scary spooky side of things. Watching the latest horror movie and trick or treating took president over our family Dumb Supper and pumpkin carving.
So, once again, our traditions had to change. I had introduced my kids to divination, simple Yes/No pendulums, when they were younger, and, at about 12/13, to tarot cards and my crystal ball. Since then, a look at what the next 12 months may bring has become one of our new traditions. I struggled to decide when was a good time to introduce more in-depth divination, I know it is a subject that divides the community, so I resolved I had to make my decision based on my kids as I knew them and my own gut. The kids were getting older and they understood their responsibility to keep themselves and those around them safe.
As a fire festival, and one being celebrated in our house, festivities are not complete without a fire. We do not have an open fire in the house, so cannot rekindle our home fire with the embers of the Samhain fire but we do spread the ashes around our back garden to protect us all in the coming year. As a Celtic household, fire is the one thing we can always agree on.
Samhain has always had a very special place in my heart. This year, our celebrations look to be very quiet due to Corona Virus and yet not much is going to change for me. As with every year we will go into our local woods and collect acorns, twigs, and fallen sturdy sticks. I plan on making a besom broom and spelling it with the intention for the upcoming year, and it is at this time of year that I make a small altar besom at the same time.
Usually when we go out and collect acorns for the Samhain altar we do tend to spend a good amount of time in the woods, collecting up piles of leaves where we can to make safe, cosy homes for hedgehogs too hibernate in. When we get home there is always hot chocolate that I spice up with seasonal pumpkin spice type blends and we always seem to spend a few hours playing ‘acorn whistles’ with acorn cups.
Its become a ritual in and of itself to put on the fire in the mornings (even if it is a gas fire) and turn on the essential oil diffusers which I have going with four thieves blend. I spend the month leading up to Samhain itself transitioning to warm, comforting and grounding practises. Evenings filled with crafting and movies under piles of blankets are the norm.
On Samhain itself, I usually prepare a simple fare. I try to make a pumpkin and apple soup most years, with freshly baked bread. I also prepare spiced nuts. Every year, we read or retell the tale of Persephone. As the veil thins, I have a solitary ritual at home, indoors – and this varies according to what feels right for me. I commune with the Spirits and seek guidance for the next year. I always walk away feeling grounded, settled and connected.