As some of you know, I am embarking on a new journey-- becoming a mom! Our sweet, little Pumpkin (Spice) is due in April. Friends lovingly refer to Baby Morris as "fire baby" since I am craving all the spicy foods and he/she will be an Aries.
This transition has me thinking about a lot, including how I will teach my wee one about the traditions I believe in and how I may include him/her, my husband, and even my stepsons this year. Before this time, I simply practiced solitary or with a small group of friends, some of whom have children.
As I consider these things, I think about the differences in our tiny family. My husband doesn't have a strict belief structure and lies somewhere between an Atheist and an Agnostic. My stepsons have been taught a myriad of things and are still coming into their own ideas and beliefs. I feel now that I will have my own child, it's a great time to begin new family traditions and mix our family cauldron up.
These past few months I have taken the time to discuss spiritual family traditions with friends who have children and if or how they include them in these yearly celebrations. It also has helped me realize that some of us, whether we are new to the Craft or never had traditions growing up, are still trying to figure out what traditions are family friendly and how can we include our little ones on our sacred journey. After all, each moment is sacred as we create new memories with those that really matter.
To give you some background on this holiday, Samhain is an ancient festival where the veil is said to be thinnest. It is normally celebrated on October 31, but is different each year according to astrological correspondences. This day is a time when we can communicate with the deceased and our ancestors easily, we can perform powerful divinations, and we are able to release things from this past year in order to prepare for the new. In the Avalonian tradition, this day is known as Calan Gaeaf. Calan Gaeaf is a Welsh word that means "first winter" and is a time when they believed that the year had ended and winter had begun. This gave that time a real "new year" feeling. During Calan Gaeaf, turnips were used instead of pumpkins to create jack-o'-lanterns. In some traditions, these were made to guide the dead back home while others believed they were used to scare evil spirits away. You can read more about Calan Gaeaf and it's comparison to Samhain in this paper I wrote in 2017.
Samhain is a time when families and communities come together to celebrate ancestors, release the previous year, and celebrate life & death. So what are some ways we can incorporate this tradition in the present with our families?
1) Seasonal Crafts
One of the easiest ways to celebrate the season is to create a jack-o'-lantern. If you are celebrating the ancestors and honoring them during this time, consider having the kids name each pumpkin after an ancestor or recently deceased relative. This will instill the magic of guiding those people home.
Younger kids could also complete coloring pages that could be put up around the altar as gifts for the ancestors. Surely, those on the other side would love to receive a sweet drawing or colored page from the youngest child just as much as we do.
2) Create a family altar
Every family is different so this is going to take some planning on your part. First, decide where the family Samhain altar will be. For us, we enjoy putting it in the kitchen near our kitchen table. My mom would use the center of the kitchen table and put pictures or things that each family member loved. We have younger kids so it can be difficult to have anything out on the kitchen table without it being touched, so we have designated a special area that must not be touched.
Some examples of things you might like to put on your altar include images of the deceased, objects that represent what they loved, crystals, smalls gifts, hand-written notes, and even foods they liked (I recommend putting food out only for Samhain night).
3) Celebrate the faeries
I enjoy imagining that the faeries are helping the dead on their way across the veil. After all, faeries live between worlds. It's also fun for littles to connect with faery energy. To celebrate them, consider making yummy, warmed apple cider with cinnamon and enjoying some for yourselves, then leave some in small cups from a tea set or in small bowls outside for the faeries to enjoy. You can also leave them other gifts such as crystals, candy, or honey.
This time, as well as Beltane, is a great time to connect with your faery sight. Consider starting a tradition where you give a gift to the faeries at night and before bed you bless each other's third eye with rose hip oil to symbolize the beautiful dreams the faeries will bring you on this night. If you have older children, you may even include the idea of divination and also place some amethyst under their pillow. This will encourage them to keep harnessing their intuition from their childhood.
4) Family Ritual
Before or after the kids have gone out for trick-or-treating, bring everyone to the dinner table and set up a "dumb supper." You can set out plates that have some foods on them as well as cups with drinks. If the altar is in another room, consider bringing a few of the items onto your supper table for this evening only. Cast your circle and call in the elements, if you would like. Then, take a moment together of complete silence (this may be a shorter time for younger children, or not at all for babies).
Say a blessing of any kind for those that have passed such as this one I wrote, "Lighting this candle, we remember your light." (Light a candle) "Drinking this water, we remember that we are connected by love." (Drink a sip of water) "Eating this _______, we remember that we are a mixture of your physical form this night." (Eat a bite of bread, cake, or whatever you'd like) "Lighting this incense, we remember and honor your spirit that made as whole." (Light incense).
End with a small prayer (by Linda Hogan) said together "Suddenly, all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands."
At the end of this short, simple ritual I enjoy hugging and sharing memories of those that are gone. This includes family, friends, and pets.
5) Celebrate with a Bonfire and Candle
This is a fun tradition that we also use around Yule to send off our letters to Santa/letters of things we wish for. The elements of fire and air are powerful.
On Samhain, we take time writing down things we would like to release from this year on post-its or notecards. Children might like to release anger or hurt they are feeling from a particular situation. Help them when thinking about something they would like to shift by giving them ideas of things you are ready to part with (a bad habit, etc). We all stand around the bonfire and, one at a time, we read the things we want to discard aloud. We then throw these ideas into the fire, along with a few sprigs of rosemary for protection. For a moment we watch all of the things go up to the sky and we take a few cleansing breaths to feel it being released.
After, there is a small candle on a piece of stone that could easily be walked or jumped over. This candle is to bless us for the new year. We might walk or jump over it (for the younger ones, we carry them over) and bless ourselves with whatever we desire such as love, abundance, protection, etc.
Samhain with children and family can be fun and is a great way to teach every one about your traditions as well as being open minded. Even though they might not follow your traditions as they grow older and they may find their own, these memories will always hold a special place in their heart. They may even influence them as they create traditions for their own family.
Samhain blessings to you and yours.