As much as I can, I like to make the holidays meaningful for my family. Raising my kids Pagan has been important to me, but also fun. Just because you’re Pagan, doesn’t mean that Samhain has to be solemn. All the fun of costumes and trick-or-treating are an integral part of Samhain tradition. Making sure your child learns the meaning behind the masks, and including the more serious aspects of the holiday, in addition to the fun and games, makes Samhain complete.
As for introducing kids to the meaning of Samhain- that can be a little overwhelming. There is so much information to relay. It is best to start with the simple explanation that…
Samhain (pronounced SOW-in) means Summer’s End. It is the Celtic New Year
and a time for commemorating and remembering our ancestors and Beloved Dead.
Let your child help you set up and decorate your family’s ancestor shrine. This is a good time to talk to kids about death, rebirth, the Otherworld, and the cycles of life. Teach her/him the song We All Come from the Goddess by Z. Budapest. (If your Pagan tradition isn’t goddess-centered, substitute the appropriate word in place of “goddess”.) Reassure your child that nothing ever truly ends, just changes. To further illustrate the point, read When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow.
Books that help explain Samhain:
- Myths and Civilization of the Celts by H.M. Martell contains an excellent description of the Celtic view of the afterlife titled “Tales from the Otherworld”.
- An excellent source for teaching kids more of the history behind Samhain, as well as crafts, jokes, and other fun stuff is The Halloween Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie C. Old. It has really great information on Samhain, put in terms that kids can understand.
- Another good source is Ancient Celtic Festivals: and How We Celebrate Them Today by Clare Walker Leslie and Frank E. Gerace. It is a nice reference book for Celtic feast days and was written for kids ages 8 to 12.
- The Halloween Tree is a movie based on a Ray Bradbury book. The animated story very elegantly explains some of the history and meaning behind Halloween. I recommend viewing the movie instead of reading the book; Bradbury took a lot of liberties with historical information about Samhain, and a lot of those inaccurate details didn’t make their way into the movie.
- Also see my article Kids’ Activities for Samhain/Winternights.