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ASK A WITCH-Seasonal Shifts

Honoring the change of seasons is a wonderful grounding practice for witches and other magically minded folks. When observing transitions, feel free to create rituals and celebrations that feel authentic and meaningful to you.

Hey there! I have a question about Samhain and the transition from fall to winter—is Samhain the official transition point? It feels so soon in the calendar, especially with Thanksgiving acting as the transitory holiday to winter in pop culture. I'd love to get your thoughts on this. Seasonal Shifts

Dear Seasonal,

Samhain is a pagan celebration taking place October 31-November 1. It occurs about halfway between the fall equinox and the winter solstice, and has traditionally been observed as the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the darker months (or winter). In many cultures this period is seen as liminal, meaning a time when the veil between worlds is thin. This span of days is known as Halloween, All Saint's Day, All Soul's Day, and Day of the Dead.

Thanksgiving acts as a transition into the Christmas/Holiday season for commercial reasons- it is a natural time for stores to begin the heavy push towards gift buying (although that time seems to come earlier every year, doesn't it?). This is definitely a modern phenomenon, birthed by capitalism.

The winter solstice takes place on December 20-22 and is the official date that marks the change from autumn into winter, because the longest night of the year falls when the sun is the furthest from the northern hemisphere. From this date forward the days slowly begin to grow.

So, with all of these different days marking the seasonal shift, it really falls to you and where your beliefs lie. If you consider yourself a pagan, and/or you can sense that liminal period when the veil thins, then it makes sense to observe Samhain as the shift between fall and winter. The weather often mirrors this as well, as the crisp and sunny days of October give way to the gray rain of November.

If that feels too early and you enjoy getting into the holiday spirit, marking Thanksgiving as your transition is certainly harmless. Thanksgiving seems to me an autumn holiday, with its harvest bounty, while Christmas, and other religious winter holidays, are clearly winter celebrations, so marking the shift then makes sense, especially because you won't be alone, as pop culture rejoices in the transition.

The solstice has always, to me, seemed a little late in the calendar to officially declare winter, especially because I'm from the north country where there is already plenty of snow by the end of December. I prefer to observe this occasion as the end of the darkness and the return to the light, rather than a seasonal shift, though you wouldn't be wrong if that's when you chose to celebrate the transition.

I guess the takeaway here is that you can really do, believe, and celebrate whatever and whenever you wish, especially if when doing so you are able to respect the choices and beliefs of others. Fall, like spring, is a season of change, between the more clearly defined seasons of summer and winter. Since it is transitory by nature, you can observe the end of it whenever it makes sense to you.

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