The wheel of the year turns and Samhain rolls around again. Whilst I attend Halloween parties for small children dressed as Superheroes and Firefighters, whilst I prepare for the onslaught of trick or treaters, whilst I fake shudder at every garish Halloween decoration my son points to, deep down inside I feel the mixture of grief and love this festival offers me. Samhain is a time to honour our beloved dead, our ancestors, the children we never had the chance to watch grow up, the ones we miss with every beat of our heart. As the veil between the worlds becomes thin, we turn our minds to the ones we hold in our hearts, but not in our arms.

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Death has been a fairly constant companion in my life, and whenever I light candles for those who have passed on to their next great adventure I always feel an overwhelming sadness at just how many candles I have to light. However there is a sweet symbolism to all those candles, for every little light chases back the darkness and illuminates the room – just as every person those candles represent lit up my life. Every single one of them. We cannot grieve so fiercely, we cannot hurt so intensely, if we did not love with such passion first.

As a small child I often asked my mother if we could hold a birthday party for my deceased sister, unaware of the terrible grief in her eyes every year that I asked. For me, honouring my little sister came in the way of good and exciting things that small children love – parties, games and food. As I got older I learned to understand the pain my parents felt and I took to private celebrations, sneaking a plate of food out into my wendy house. I still sneak food outside for her, and for all the other souls I have adored and said farewell to. Breaking bread with the dead is my way of including them in my life and respecting the influence that they had, or still have, on me. You fed my soul, and I feed yours. For many who do not look beyond the surface of commercialized Halloween, it can be hard to fathom this apparent fascination with the dead. I do not, and have never, seen it that way. To me, Samhain is a celebration of life. Of our ancestors, for without whom we would not be. Of the lives who touched ours, of the people who impacted the way we think and feel, of those we hold dearest. It is an understanding that our grief comes from a place of love, the deepest love, the most potent love. It is a celebration of each and every light in the darkness. At Samhain I journey deep into myself, I face my fears, I prepare for the winter, I acknowledge my dark side, I honour the beloved dead, and I celebrate life.

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