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How to Celebrate Sam Hain or the Harvest New Year

October 28, 2017       On Higher Ground
Celebrating the Harvest
New Year:  Sam Hain!
Instead of  All Saint's Day or All Soul's Day
Christians might want to be celebrating
 a Harvest of blessings

Sam Hain has traditionally  been celebrated as a Halloween-type Celtic harvest festival, which involves the traditional western rituals like having a cornucopia of produce or fruits at the table and burying an apple under the doorstep and hanging a sprig of over your window for good fortune, and to celebrate midnight, drinking ale around a bonfire while having a barbecue.

This celebration has  become moved as an American pilgrim Thanksgiving ritual while the original European harvest holiday.  While the Christian Church has actually repurposed this original holiday to what we know of as All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day as a two-day celebration, there might actually  be nothing  wrong with celebrating Sam Hain, as Halloween fun AND as a harvest holiday dedicated to the Lord, since Thanksgiving  is actually a yearly Hebrew holiday known as the Shemitah.  The fact that in Asia or in ASEAN, planting season still continues until this date, means that one must still pray and offer thanks for a bountiful harvest come summer.  So to give you an idea what you need to do to celebrate the original  harvest festival as one dedicated to the Lord, here are the traditional western Celtic rituals:

  • Bury an apple under your doorstep for good  fortune and bountiful  harvest  next year.  Like the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, there are good fortune rituals for the Celtic New Year, and burying an apple as part of the old world rituals seems like a harmless where you pray to the Lord allow the  earth to provide you with bounty and food on the table  for next year.  If you do not have earth near your doorstep, you can set up an earthen pot with good soil/dirt in it and plant one apple or two, then light a small candle on top when midnight strikes to guide good spirits to help bring you luck too.  Set the clay planter pot near your door.

video credit:  alwayswithchillis
Halloween Apple Bobbing
  • Children's games of good ole times include "bobbing for apples," a contest of having a big basin and kids get to grab a floating apple with their teeth and mouth while their hands are either holding the edge of the water basin or tied behind their back.  This is also one activity that supposedly brings good luck to the kid who gets an apple in his mouth and keeps it for munchies, the apple signifying a bountiful year after Sam Hain.

Sam Hain bonfire celebrations

  • The bonfire ritual has always been a celebration of  sorts for  almost every victorious gathering, where food  can be roasted over an open fire and people  can gather around the bonfire for stories and rituals of burning prayer requests or habits listed on paper that they want to change.  In most sports victory celebrations, a midnight bonfire is part of a thanksgiving ritual. So one made in a safe open field as part of a Christian reoriented thanksgiving for the harvest end celebrations may be a good social event.

Cornucopia with a basket woven in the shape of a goat's horn
as thanksgiving food basket, an offering to the Lord and to
ancestral spirits.

  • Cornucopia is a goat's horn container stuffed with the year's bountiful harvest: including ears of corn, squash, bean sprouts, onions, garlic, turnips and the like.  Even fruits like apples can be squeezed into a cornucopia bunch.  The bouquet of vegetables, spices and fruits are for good luck and a bountiful harvest for the next year.  Like American Thanksgiving celebrations, having a cornucopia horn as your dining table's centerpiece is a symbol of good luck just like the Chinese put together a round fruit basket during Lunar New Year in February.  Why go goth grieving on All Soul's day or All' Saint's Day when you can go celebrating a harvest holiday for the Lord?

  • Hanging a sprig of holly on your window also brings good luck on Sam Hain.  Christian folks light a blessed candle outside their homes to guide ancestral spirits who are visiting, and to make sure no mischief is performed by your kin if they visit as restless spirits.  For Sam Hain celebrants the candle is meant to guide spirits of your kin to where the food prep offerings for ancestors.  Usually placed on window sills, this might be a fire hazard, so placing one on the table itself as well as on your house gate should be good enough.  If you have a candelabra fixture for small candles, this might also be a good thing to use for lighting your home from outside, fix it up on a table and light it near midnight.

  • The pagan tradition for the Harvest festival went with lighting 5 candles placed before the front door entrance to your home, with a container of mead, water then burying some apples in the earth near your front door or placing them buried in an earthen pot, then the family would say their prayers of thanksgiving to the earth goddess for a bountiful harvest this past year and for the next year.  Then the family enters the home for dinner and breaks Irish breads and shares them, the first being a rye bread baked with buttermilk and rosemary, leaving a slice on an ancestral table as offering to their spirit kin; sharing the rest of the slices with guests.  Lastly sharing their best bread of the night, Barmbrack, a kind of nutty and dried fruit filled raisin bread.  An empty seat at the table is reserved for one's ancestors, including place cover.Like the Christian pilgrim celebrations for Thanksgiving and Christmas, starting off with an oat cake or oatmeal cookies while reserving fruitcake as the best treat for the evening.  Using the same celebrations as Thanksgiving consecrated to the Lord instead of holding a grim All Soul's Day or All Saint's Day gig is actually more edifying and respectful than a miserable Halloween with solemn creepy Catholic accoutrements.  It is a celebration dedicated to the Lord, Yahweh, and not to a non-existent earth goddess.  Wouldn't you rather nosh on amazing bread than booze and pulutan on the even of Sam Hain? 

If you prefer a more solemn yet joyous Halloween celebration, celebrate the holidays as Sam Hain but dedicate the feast to the Lord, our Father in Heaven.  It isn't evil to bury apples under your front door for good luck, nor light blessed candles on the window or on your gate or on an ancestor table, nor is it bad to have a collection of food vegetables, like corn and squash as an offering of thanksgivine. 

The Lord won't be that obtuse to your family bobbing for apples, or enjoying a feast of fresh Irish bread as well.  Pan de sal and your favorite kesong puti or condensada milk will do just fine too.  Enjoy the Halloween season like a kid, with a blessing from on high.


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