Known to most as "Halloween: Samhain is the time that the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the thinnest. In ancient times it was believed that this is the time that our ancestors would return to visit us, to give help and advice. People set out lights in hollowed-out turnips to guide the spirits of the dead (the fore-runners of the modern Jack-o-lanterns) and put out food as an offering (which evolved to the modern tradition of "trick-or-treating").
Pagans are not afraid of the spirits of the dead. They are our friends and family. They are our ancestors who gave us life. We call them our "beloved dead". Death is a natural part of life, in fact, a gift of the Goddess. If nobody died, there would be no room for new things to be born, not change or growth.
Nobody really knows what happens when they die. Most Pagans believe that our spirits live on in one way or another while our bodies return to the elements and sustain other lives. There are many beautiful names for the place where our spirits go: Summerland (the place that is always summer and never winter), Tir n’a Nob (The Irish "Land of the Youth" where spirits grow younger and younger until they are young enough to be reborn) , Avalon (the Isle of Apples, where the dead wander in the orchards of the Goddess, where the trees bear fruit and flowers at the same time), and Heaven (where streets are paved with gold, and the spirits are transformed into angles and spend eternity in the presence of God). However we imagine this place, it is a place of peace and rest where we stay for a time until we are ready to be reborn again, perhaps as an animal or a tree or as another person. In each life we learn new lessons, so our spirits are always growing wiser.
Samhain is also our New Year’s Day. It may seem strange to have a new year begin in the fall, when the days are growing shorter and colder. But death and birth are two sides of the same coin. It is the time of death and the time of new beginnings, when we think about hope and change and what the next year will bring.