Samhain is a big deal in our house.  Our family plans its costumes (and cosplay) sometimes years in advance.  We participate in a lot of the rituals common in the U.S. for Halloween, and we blend them with the traditional rites of Samhain.  Whether you celebrate this holiday on October 31st (fixed date), November 6th (the cross-quarter date), or somewhere in between, there are a number of ways to get your children, both wee and tall to participate.

Visit a Farm

Since many of us have no gardens or only small ones, it is important to help our children connect our food during this time of harvest with the land from which it comes.  Several farms hold special events and provide goods to families during this time of year (and some hold nearly year-round activities).  From pumpkin patches to corn mazes to herbal labyrinths, it's possible to let your children see food at the end of the growing year.  Sunflowers are drooping and have lost their petals, the largest corn has been picked, and all manner of squash have fattened and are ready for eating or carving.

Let your children get muddy, greet the goats, sheep, ducks, and more that the farm boasts, and partake in cider or other treats the farm has at their stand.  Our family goes to at least one farm each autumn, though we prefer to visit farms several times throughout the year.  We've picked pumpkins, meditated in a lavender labyrinth, fed goats, watched ducks race, and much more.  Our favorites in the Seattle area area Dr. Maze's Farm in Redmond, WA, Swan's Trail Farm in Snohomish, WA, and Oxbow Farm in Carnation, WA.

 

Carve a Turnip

While younger children can help with scooping out the guts of a pumpkin (or just decorating one), give older children a paring knife and melon baller and talk to them about the origins of jack-o-lanterns.

Before European colonization of and trade with the Americas, there were no pumpkins to be carved, and turnips were the preferred vegetable for carving.  With a week to go before Samhain, you can encourage them to carve their turnips into heads or skulls and let them dry.  Several tutorials are available online with ideas for other types of turnip carvings.  This practice of a traditional ritual will help your pre-teens and teenagers connect with pagan history.

 

Make a Harvest Soup

Children of all ages can be of help in the kitchen.  Give the mixing and sifting jobs to younger children, and the more delicate or dangerous ones to those mature enough to handle things like knives and the stove.  A harvest soup our family made this October included cooking the soup itself within a pumpkin.

We cleaned out two pie pumpkins as we would for carving larger squash, complete with the top reserved as a hat during cooking.

Ingredients

2 pie pumpkins, cleaned with tops reserved
1 kabocha pumpkin, peeled, cleaned and cubed
1 leek, whites chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 -2 qts. chicken or mushroom stock
1/2c. grated parmesan (optional)
1/4 lb. crimini mushrooms quartered and sauteed
1/2 lb. ground turkey sausage (optional)
salt, pepper, thyme, tarragon to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Show mature children how to carve the top of the pie pumpkins so the top will sit back in it after cleaning.  Let younger children help with cleaning out the guts.  Scrape the inside walls of each pumpkin with a sturdy spoon (a grapefruit spoon is best), and then add cubed pumpkin, leeks, garlic, spices, and herbs.  If you eat dairy, sprinkle in some grated parmesan.  Pour in chicken or mushrooms stock until the pumpkin is nearly full, then cover with the removed top and place in the oven on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish (they tend to leak!) for about two hours, depending on the size of your pumpkin.

Have your children help work the sausage into tiny meatballs, about the diameter of a quarter.  Place them in an oiled baking dish in rows, or if in a pie pan, in concentric circles.  These will go into the oven about twenty minutes before removing the pumpkins from the oven.  Sauté the mushrooms in butter or oil, and set aside.

When done, remove meatballs and pumpkins from the oven.  When I lifted mine up, the bottoms fell out of the pumpkins, so make sure you have them on cookie sheets with raised sides, or in baking dishes.  Transfer the contents of the pumpkins to a large serving bowl, scooping extra pumpkin chunks from the inside flesh of each pumpkin.  Add in mushrooms, meatballs, pumpkin seeds, and extra parmesan for more complimentary flavors.

Enjoy! 

Create Apple Star Stamps

When my daughter was little, and her friends joined us for Halloween festivities, I'd always have an apple or two set aside to show them the five-pointed star hiding within.  Cut an apple horizontally across the middle, rather than vertically from the stem, and the five-pointed star will be revealed.  Then take either half (or both if you have two small children at home), and give them a little acrylic or tempera paint on plate or palette. Brush the paint across the cut end of the apple, and press it onto paper set aside for the project.  You can make holiday paper, greeting cards, and art using the apple stamp.  The trick to keeping the star in the center visible is to use only a thin layer of paint, which may require assisting especially small children in applying the paint.

Use Natural Ingredients to Create Ghoulish Faces

Want to confuse malevolent spirits and send them away this Samhain?  Need a quick and inexpensive disguise for mumming?  Create a ghoulish mask on your face and that of your children using substances available in a kitchen.  Crush spinach to get a little green beneath the eyes and cheekbones to create a hollowed look.  Mix coconut oil, flour, and liquid glycerin together to whiten your face, making it look pale and bloodless.  Then add a little gore by smearing pomegranate juice around your mouth, and anywhere there ought to be fresh blood.


Adopt or Support Black Cats and Dogs

Our black-furred friends have often walked alongside pagans and witches through history, as friends, familiars, and sometimes victims of prejudice.  Black-furred pets are the least adopted at shelters across the country due to superstitions from medieval Christian biases that branded them devilish, unlucky creatures.  Yet those of us who know them have learned their ancient history as loyal companions and signs of good luck.

If you can, please consider adoption from a local shelter. If you're unable to adopt at this time, it's an excellent time of year to donate to your local no kill shelter or volunteer your time. Shelters can always use more food, towels, and blankets, and may have a wishlist on Amazon! 

If you already share your home with a black-furred beastie, keep them inside this Halloween for their own safety.  Cats, and black cats especially, are a target for cruel pranks and sought out by unscrupulous people.   Check out Seattle Humane Society's Black Cats & Dogs Club on Facebook to share pictures and show your support.

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