Samhain, October 31st, is considered to be the beginning of what is known as "the dark of the year", the time when nothing grows and everything sleeps. This time lasts until the first sabbat of spring, Imbolc. It is also one of two times in the year when the veil between our world and the next is at its thinnest. It is now, and at Beltane that those who passed in the previous six months are said to finally cross over into the next world. And it's now that it is considered easiest to reach out to those who have crossed to talk with them.
It is also at Samhain that we honor the ancestors and those who have passed. Many Samhain traditions center around honoring these ancestors and reaching out to them. Possibly the easiest and most meaningful way to do this is the simple act of the "dumb supper". A full meal is prepared, as elaborate as you want to get, family and friends gather to share this meal and talk about loved ones who have crossed. One place at the table is fully set, the meal is served, but no one sits in that chair. It is reserved for the ancestors who wish to join the feast. After the meal is over, that plate is taken outside and left for any who wish to partake of it.
Another meaningful Samhain ritual is the cemetery visit, honoring the dead by tending to the graves in your local cemetery. They can be ancestors, or strangers, it doesn't matter. What is important is that on this day they are remembered, and shown that the living still see them, that they are still cared about.
Or we can simply light a candle and leave it in the window so that loved ones can find their way home to us for a night. These are just some of the ways that people have celebrated Samhain over the centuries, ways that are easy for us to duplicate today.
How are you going to mark the turning of the wheel to Samhain this year?