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Samhain, meaning "summer's end," is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the coldest half of the year. For many practitioners, Samhain also is the beginning of the spiritual new year. Samhain is pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win or /ˈsaʊ.ɪn/ SOW-in

In the Pagan or Earth-based calendar, divided into quarters by the solstices and equinoxes, great importance is placed on "cross-quarter" days: the days that fall halfway between each solstice and equinox (or between the equinox and solstice.)

Samhain falls halfway between the Autumn Equinox (Mabon) and the Winter Solstice (Yule). In the northern hemisphere, many Pagans celebrate Samhain from sundown on October 31 through November 1. Others hold Samhain celebrations on the nearest weekend or on the Full or New Moon closest to this time. Some Pagans observe Samhain a bit later, or near November 6, to coincide more closely with the astronomical midpoint between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice. Most Pagans in the southern hemisphere time their Samhain observances to coincide with the middle of their Autumn in late April and early May, rather than at the traditional European time of the holiday.

With the growth and spread of Christianity as the dominant religion throughout Europe, Samhain time took on Christian names and guises. All Saints' Day (or All Hallows) on November 1 commemorated Christian saints and martyrs. All Souls Day on November 2 was a remembrance for all souls of the dead. With the coming of Christian Spaniards to Mexico, the indigenous customs of honoring the dead at this time of year mixed with Roman Catholicism and gave birth to Día de los Muertos. Samhain shares the ancient spiritual practice of remembering and paying respects to the Dead with these related religious holidays of Christianity.

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