Samhain sometimes pronounced 'sow'inn' is an important date in the Pagan calendar. Know as the Feast of the Dead by many Pagans, some also celebrate it as the Celtic New Year. It in many Western countries it is more commonly known as Halloween or All Hallows Eve, where it has become Christianized as a time of Ghouls and ghosts and what the Christians call Black magic. The following day is known as all Saints Day in the Christian calendar
Samhain is the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld are believed to be at their thinnest. Many who practice divination see this as the best time to seek visions of the future. It is when the spirits of the dead can most readily mingle with the living once again, a time for contacting the departed and some pagans will prepare a feast and lay an extra place setting for those who are dead. Pagans like people of many other faiths honour their dead but Samhain is a time of particular focus on the death aspect of the life, death and rebirth cycle, it is a time of year when the nights are getting darker, the leaves are falling from the trees and natures rhythm is one of death and slumber.
It is important to remember that death is not feared or seen as a morbid event by most pagans. It is seen as the natural part of the cycle of life and rebirth, the old are respected as providing wisdom but dying is to be accepted as just another stage in the journey. As part of this celebration of the cycle Pagans often use Samhain to welcome children born in the last year into the community.
Samhain also symbolises endings so can for many Pagans be a time of reflection not just on their own mortality but on the end of relationships, moving on from an old job and other life changes.
Ancient Druids built sacred bonfires thought by some to be one of the origins of modern day bonfire night. At such celebrations people brought food from harvest and a sacrificed animal for a communal feast, again this has echoes in the Christian harvest festival which has clear Pagan roots.