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By Michelle Chun

A Brief Look Into Samhain

Samhain is a pagan holiday that commemorates the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the coldest half of the year. It can also be a day to remember lost loved ones, perform an inner journey, and reflect on the past as another chapter closes. One way to celebrate this holiday is to create an altar for your ancestors; to give thanks and look towards them for guidance during the new season. 

How to Decorate a Samhain Altar

Hues, flowers, and candles all play into assembling a meaningful altar. The color palette of Samhain mainly focuses on orange and black. Orange is associated with the harvest period and the warm embers from the great bonfires lit during this time. Black is a sacred color linked to Pagan gods and goddesses and also acts as a shield of protection against evil.

Autumnal flowers should be incorporated to decorate the altar, such as chrysanthemums and marigolds. In European countries such as Spain and Italy, the chrysanthemum is known as the “flower of the dead,” symbolizing grief towards the deceased. However, once placed on the altar, it can represent hope for a peaceful afterlife and reincarnation. Furthermore, chrysanthemums can be used as the centerpiece as they represent both the sun and fire, which are integral to the Samhain history. Marigolds embody both death and reincarnation in India and South America, acting as the door between the two worlds. On the altar, they allow for connection and communication between the living and the dead.  

Candles and incense provide a spiritual and sensory element to the altar. As Samhain focuses on the inner journey, the flame of a candle and smoke of incense encourages meditation and introspection. Staying true to the color palette of this holiday, orange and black candles would be a great addition. Orange candles work to recreate the sun and fire while black candles absorb light and foster a warm and safe space. For incense, seasonal herbs such as Rosemary would be best. This herb is linked to remembrance, which aids in honoring treasured memories of ancestors or lost loved ones.

As we bid adieu to the crackles of fall bonfires and the autumn leaves, we begin preparing for the winter that can bring on seasonal loneliness. Samhain is a holiday that allows people to gather together and remember the strength of family one last time before the barren season. It is a special day filled with warmth, remembrance, and gratitude. Creating an altar with your loved ones, for your lost loved ones, can help you realize just how much you are and were loved. 

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