by Julie Snyder
The Celtic festival Samhain marks the end of the "wheel' and represents the Pagan New Year. It's the end of harvest season and the beginning of the "darker half" of the year. It's held halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, usually falling on October 31 or November 1.
This holiday continues to hearken back to its roots as a harvest celebration after toiling through the summer. It's also a day for remembering the past, those who've gone before and forecasting the future.
These nature-centered activities offer your kids a closeness with the season and the chance to reap a harvest of family fun.
"Wreaths of bounty" symbolize giving thanks for a prosperous year and invite others less fortunate to share in the good harvest.
✓ pine cones, seeds, leaves, nuts and berry bunches
✓ Florist wire
Cut out a 15" wreath from the cardboard.
Head off on a Nature hike. Respectfully, collect items from nature, such as pine cones, seeds, leaves, berry bunches, acorns and caps and flowers. Once home...and if your kids are like mine, after you've had a snack, dump your treasures out on the newspapers.
Together, plan your wreath, choosing which objects go where on the cardboard background. Wrap the wire around each object. Poke two small holes in the cardboard ring, feed the wire through and twist in back. Younger kids can help by handing you the pieces.
Fasten objects onto the ring until no cardboard shows. Hang the wreath on the front door.
Play it in the backyard, along a nature trail, or at the beach!
First, the hiding team goes down the path and leaves "directions" to follow by placing piles of rocks and twigs along the side of the path. Clues might include:
• Three rocks and a twig sticking out to the left might mean that the next clue is three steps forward and to the left
• A rock in a circle of twigs may mean to stand still, turn slowly in a circle for the next clue
• A pile of three stones with a cone on top could send you to a tall pine tree
Next, the seekers start down the path to find them. Good luck!
✓ 21 leaves (or more)
✓ 21 index cards
✓ Contact paper, optional
Before Samhain gather leaves. Check the ground for brightly colored one that still bend. Press the leaves between paper towels, stacking books on top of them. After two or three days, remove the leaves.
Select 10 pairs and that has no mate. Glue the leaves to the index cards. Decorate each pair with markers or stickers.
Shuffle and deal out all the cards. Each child picks a card from the one on their left, laying down pairs for all to see. Continue playing until all pairs are matched. The child holding the odd card wins.
Children long ago used turnips instead of pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkins weren't grown in Europe until after the discovery of North America.
✓ 1 turnip and one flashlight per child
✓ Sharp knife for adult or older kids
Slice off the top of each medium size purple-top turnip. Hollow out the middle with the knife and spoon. Save the turnip meat for cooking later.
Carefully carve facial features through one side of the turnip. Cut a circle in the bottom of the turnip to fit snug over the head of a flashlight. Turn on the flashlight when you go trick-or-treat-ing.
Celtic children would wear all white, dress up as the opposite gender or don straw disguises to fool the spirits out walking around on Samhain. Will you dress up for the sabbat?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.