Honoring the dead: My Samhain traditions

Halloween has been my favorite holiday for most of my life. I’m sure Christmas was my favorite holiday once upon a time (probably before I learned about the whole Santa thing), but Halloween just always felt special. I think, in large part, it was due to dressing up. There is definitely an attraction to the ability to be anything you want, even if it’s just for one night.

When I started celebrating the Sabbats, I found it very appropriate that Samhain was the one that spoke to me the most. Both of my favorite holidays rolled up in one day.

But Samhain speaks to me for a very different reason. Halloween is about childhood to me. It brings me back in touch with my own innocence. Samhain is about honoring my ancestors and my family who have passed on, both those by blood and those by choice.

I use this night to reflect on their lives, to celebrate them, to thank them for all that they’ve given me. It is not a day meant for sadness, though I must admit that I often can’t control that bit of mourning.

I started a ritual several years ago on Samhain. I’d light a small white candle for each loved one I had lost, say a prayer and reflect while watching the candles burn. I discovered rather quickly that one candle for each loved one was just way too much. I now buy one large white candle and inscribe their names on it. I burn a second for all of my ancestors not named. Abby has been with me for each ritual. Last year was the first time she engraved her own candle – with Mom-mom Janice and Rocky (her grandpop’s dog). For the past few years, Kes has joined me as well.

Afterwards, we eat dinner while the candles burn and lay an extra plate on the table. It’s peaceful and I look forward to it every year.

These are the names that adorn my candle this year (in no particular order):

Aunt Dale
Grandmom Houck
Uncle Harvey
Aunt Debby
Uncle Mark
Aunt Barbara

Here was our prayer tonight:

Tonight, when the veil between worlds is thin,
We take a moment to remember and honor our loved ones on the other side.
We celebrate your lives and how you touched our hearts.
You may be gone from this world, but you are not forgotten.

Please join us so we might thank you
For all you gave us in life,
And for watching over us in death.
We ask for your continued protection, love and guidance
In the upcoming year.

In our hearts you live on;
In the hearts of generations to come,
You will live on forever.

Whether you celebrate Samhain or not, is there anything special you do to honor loved ones who have passed on?

11 responses to this post.

  1. we have done Dia de la Muerta to remember those gone before us…it’s a nice tradition…


    • There are a lot of similarities between Dia de la Muerta and Samhain . . . I love the celebration as opposed to mourning. It’s okay to be sad, but we need to move forward and we can do that while still honoring and respecting those we’ve lost. 🙂

      I also must admit that I’ve always wanted to attend a Dia de la Muerta celebration 🙂


  2. Posted by Anne Katherine on November 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I love the candle idea.
    We usually bake certain recipes we associate with people in our family.
    But I love your traditions!


    • Thank you, Anne! I love the recipe tradition! I do that a little bit. My mom baked a lot, so I have her recipes . . . one of which is my great grandmother’s . . . baking always make me feel closer to both of them 🙂


  3. Other than thinking of them, looking at pictures and telling stories to remember….I don’t think we have any traditions for remembrance really. I think this way of lighting a candle and saying a prayer is very beautiful and meaningful, though. 🙂


    • I am a picture freak. Several years after my mom died, I started to make a slideshow of pictures of her . . . Come to discover that I only had a couple of pictures of her smiling and only 3 or 4 pictures of the two of us together. I was 16 when she died and the last picture I had of us together was from when I was 10. I was PISSED! I think it’s the only time since my mom died that I was ever truly mad at her. I purposefully make a point of taking pictures with Abby because of that – no matter how much I hate how I look!

      Sorry, got ranty there for a minute!

      I love going through pictures and telling stories . . . and I retell the stories my mom told me.

      The candles and prayer started 7 years ago and it’s always been a comfort 🙂


  4. That”s a beautiful way to celebrate the lives of your lost loved ones. 🙂 My family is similar to Sharon’s we share stories and look at pictures to remember, no set traditions though.


    • Thank you, Paula 🙂 . . . Pictures and stories are an excellent way to remember and I do a lot of that myself. Especially pictures. If my house were burning down and I could only grab one thing, it would be my tote (yes, I have a tote) of pictures!


  5. […] also very beautiful. In her Halloween post, she talked about her Samhain traditions and her way of honoring the dead. In The power of words, she expresses why we shouldn’t use the word retarded and speaks about […]


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