Happy Samhain-o-ween de Muertos… What?

Samhain-o-ween de Muertos…???

Good Morning Collage Fam!

So, it’s October 31st, and in many places around the world, people are preparing to celebrate…

I bet you expected us to say Halloween!

Indeed, may people do celebrate Halloween today (or tonight), but that isn’t nearly the only holiday celebrated on or around this day; across the world, there are numerous versions and variations and even utterly different holidays centered around this exact same time of year. Halloween itself is rooted in a much older holiday called Samhain. And some people refuse to celebrate anything at all this time of year.

You might be a little bit confused now, and that’s alright! We’ll do our best to clear that all up… so pull up a chair, grab a hot drink or perhaps a bag of treats, and let us break down a little bit of what makes this day so special.

Before Halloween, Samhain

Long, long before Halloween was ever the holiday it’s become, there was on the very same day the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced Sow-in). This holiday was far from the goofy and commercial holiday we celebrate today, however; Samhain was a celebration of the end of the harvest, and the transition into the cold and dark months.

Ancient Celts believed that this time also signaled a “thinning of the veil” between the world of the living, and the world of spirits and the dead. It was a time to give offerings to lost loved ones, and to the gods and forces responsible for a safe winter.

Today, many people practicing a variety of pagan and earth-based religions still celebrate Samhain. This article has some ideas on how to craft that for kids.

Halloween Expands in the US

Halloween originally came to the Americas with the very first European colonizers – the so-called “pilgrims”; although it had roots in Catholicism and the celebration of All Saints, Protestants begrudgingly retained it, as it gave an outlet for people to channel some of their old traditions (that were seen as being in opposition to Christianity). Over time, as those traditions faded and the nation’s identity, Halloween began to morph into the holiday it is today.

Modern Halloween

For readers in North America and much of Europe, modern Halloween requires very little introduction; whether you were allowed to participate or not, it’s nearly guaranteed that you’ve been exposed to that holiday in one way or another. Across the United States, stores begin carrying Halloween items as early as late July or early August, meaning by the end of October everyone and nearly every place it seems has been completely overwhelmed by pumpkins, and candy, and black cats, and more. Needless to say, modern Halloween is highly commercialized, and much tamer than it used to be.

As much fun as the holiday can for some, it’s important to note that for a number of reasons, Halloween is not a welcome holiday for many people in the United States and around the world. Parents, teachers, and students should be aware that many people feel the holiday conflicts with their spiritual beliefs, and so they may be very offended if asked to participate. For this reason, many public schools no longer have Halloween celebrations. Although it can be frustrating and confusing sometimes, it’s very important to respect those beliefs.

Dia de los Muertos

For many in the Americas and particularly Mexico, the holiday celebrated around this day is not in fact Halloween, but rather Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, and while the two may seem similar in many ways, the two holidays are very different. Though Dia de los Muertos shares the theme of cracking the barrier between the living and the dead, the holiday is not one of scares and horrors, but rather a loving celebration of those who have gone before. This fantastic article dispels some of the bigger myths of the holiday.

Further Reading

Hopefully by now you’ve got a broader idea of just how big a time of year this is! We hope you have a wonderful and safe season no matter what. If you’re still interested in some further reading and viewing to keep you in the Samhain-o-ween de Muertos-y mood, we here at Collage love these books and movies for the season:


This book is a beautiful bilingual (Spanish/English) adaptation of one of Mexico’s most well-known ghost stories.

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, is a wonderful kid-friendly scary story that happens to have a fantastic movie adaptation to boot!

For those interested in digging deeper into the pagan roots of Samhain, this book is a must; it is one of the best family-friendly explanations of pagan belief and practice available.


The Book of Life is one of two wonderful movies about the Dia de los Muertos holiday.

Coco is arguably the best English-language film to date to give a real sense of the power and importance of the Dia de los Muertos holiday.

Although Pan’s Labyrinth is not strictly a Halloween movie (or even tied to Dia de los Muertos), it is a fantastically creepy (though not truly scary) film, entirely in Spanish, that captures some of the feel of the old pagan roots of both holidays. This movie is Rated R however (for some violence); be sure to watch it first before sharing it with kids.