Fun Samhain Ideas for the Entire Family
What is Samhain?
Samhain is a Pagan sabbat (holy day) honored on October 31st; it is commonly known as Halloween. On Samhain, the veil between our world (land of the living) and the land of the dead is at its thinnest. This means that, on this day, we can communicate with and honor our ancestors a bit more easily than on any other day of the year.
Samhain also marks the Pagan New Year. For Pagans, the thought of autumn conjures feelings of the last harvest, death, and change. This change marks the beginning of a new person, a world preparing to be altered by the impending winter, the death of crops, and the possibilities of something better once winter has shed it's snow.
Not all Pagans celebrate Samhain, or at least, not by name. Regardless of what they call it, the majority of Pagans do celebrate some sort of honoring of ancestors and honoring of the harvest.
Family-Friendly Samhain Activities
Here are a few fun family-friendly Samhain ideas that you can use to celebrate this year:
- Pick up trash at the local cemetery. Gather wild flowers and lay them on neglected graves.
- Build a Samhain altar together as a family (ideas below).
- Light a candle for each ancestor that has passed that your family was close to. Decorate your altar with these candles. If you have young children, you can use electric (no flame) candles.
- Sit together as a family and think about what are some goals each of you have for the new year. Write them down and keep them in a scrapbook or journal. On next Samhain, revisit the list and see how many goals you and your family accomplished.
- Go to the park together as a family. Visit any hiking trails, play in fallen leaves, enjoy the fresh autumn air, and just have fun!
- Read stories and watch videos related to Samhain (ideas below).
- Cook and eat foods that honor your ancestors (ideas below).
- Make food items that honor the heritages of each of your ancestors you wish to honor. For example, if Grandma Mae was of Irish decent, make an Irish dish; if Uncle Tito was of Cherokee decent, make a Cherokee dish.
- Read stories about deities associated with Samhain. A few deities that are associated with this day include: Persephone, Hades, and Hecate.
- Go foraging for wild foods. Things like dandelions, clovers, various nuts, elderberries, and all sorts of other goodies are available for foraging around Samhain time.
- Make and decorate sugar skull cookies.
- Carve and decorate pumpkins.
Samhain Family Altar
The altar is one of the key focal points in the majority of Pagan practices. The type of altars do vary from Pagan to Pagan, though. Some prefer small altars kept in a window or on a counter, others prefer a large altar that takes up a decent section of a room, while others prefer to have a portable altar that they can move in and out of site as they please. Regardless of what kind of altar system a Pagan has set up, the majority of them decorate their altars based around the sabbats and holy days.
One way that you can actively get your entire family involved in celebrating Samhain is by decorating a Samhain family altar. You can have it as simple or as complex as you want. It can cost you absolutely nothing to make if you plan it out correctly. What is important is that you and your family spend time together, enjoy your time together, honor your ancestors, and have fun!
How to Spend Nothing on a Samhain Altar
If you're a Witch on a tight budget, you can still decorate a very lovely Samhain altar with things around your house or in nature.
First, designate an area for your altar. It is best to have it in an location that you and your family visit often (dining room and living room are generally where people like to have their altars).
Once you've found a location, you must find a spot to have the altar. If you have a large enough kitchen table, you can have your altar set up in a way that makes it look like your table's centerpiece. You can also use window sills, kitchen counters, bathroom counters, end tables, or anything else you might have lying around.
If you would like to have an altar cloth, you can make your own, or just use a small bed sheet, excess fabric, or any other sort of cloth that you might have lying around. Do keep in mind that you will likely have candles burning at your altar, so you will want a cloth that can handle that.
Next, you and your family can decorate the altar with things around the house or outside. Decorate it with pictures of deceased loved ones who you wish to honor. if you do not have a picture, place something at the altar that reminds you of this loved one. For example, if your great-grandmother enjoyed quilting, you could place a few sewing needles at the altar to remember her with. Gather autumn leaves, pine needles, wild foods (acorns, pecans, etc.), and wild flowers to decorate the altar with. If you have a garden, bring in some of your harvest and decorate your altar with those.
Samhain Food and Recipes
A few foods that are symbolic with Samhain are: pumpkins, pomegranates, tubers, apples, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), nuts (pecans, walnuts, acorns, etc.), and any other foods that are in-season.
Typically Pagans will have a large feast for one meal on Samhain, but you can choose to have three solid meals that represent Samhain and what it means to you.
Below is a simple Samhain meal plan.
- Potato Cakes
- Pumpkin Granola with Milk
- Turkey Salad Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Fries
- Eggplant Lasagna
- Brisket with Sweet Potatoes and Carrots
- Potato Chowder
Snack and Dessert Ideas
- Pomegranate Cookies (this recipe link is for lactation cookies, but you can easily omit the brewers yeast and fenugreek to make regular cookies)
- Apple Pie
- Trail Mix using in-season nuts and in-season dried fruits
- Pumpkin Pie
- Bread of the Dead
- Sweet Potato Pie
- Sugar Skull Cookies
Get the whole family involved in meal prep so that everyone can feel actively involved in the preparation and celebration of Samhain. Even children as young as one can mix batter, clean small messes, and have a good time doing it.
A Video About Persephone - This video is kid-oriented and shows Hades not as an evil tyrant like he is so often depicted.
Samhain Stories & Videos
The book contains a few stories about Samhain (and other sabbats). You could also read stories about Hades, Persephone, and Hecate to your children, since those deities are commonly associated with Samhain. Alternatively, if you know quite a bit of the history of the ancestors you and your family honor, you could tell your children those stories. Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill
Here are a few children's Samhain stories found online:
The Troll Tear - A Children's Story for Samhain by D. J. Conway
A Kid's Prayer for Samhain by Patti Wigington
Do you celebrate Samhain?
Have Fun, Have a Plan, and Enjoy!
The most important thing to do when celebrating Samhain with your family is to just have fun! Samhain should be a time of coming together, honoring one another's heritage and ancestors, and having fun. Talk with your children about what they would like to do for the sabbat and have them help and participate in as many Samhain activities as they want to.
All that being said, it is nice to have a basic plan outlined for the sabbat, that a way, you're not completely overwhelmed when it arrives. Try to make meal plans and a few Samhain activity ideas planned out ahead of time, that a way you know for certain that you have all the supplies you will need to have a fun sabbat.