Samhain, (pronounced SOW-een, SAH-win, or SAM-hayne) is considered the Pagan New Year, and is the third and final Harvest. The name actually means "End of Summer", with the dark winter half of the year commencing on this Sabbat. Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Day of the Dead, Third Harvest, Old Hallowmas (Scottish/Celtic), Samana, Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest (Strega), Samhuinn, Halloween (by the non-Pagan) or All Hallow's Eve, although that day actually falls on November 7th and Martinmas which is actually celebrated on November 11th.
It is usually celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st, and is one of the two "spirit-nights" each year, the other being Beltane. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted, allowing the spirits of the departed to travel the world again on their way to the Summerlands. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is considered easier at this time than any other. It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort.
Originally this "Feast of the Dead" was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the "wandering dead". Today a lot of practitioners still carry out that tradition. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Turnips (and latterly Pumpkins) were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos.
This was also the time that cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits. Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year).
Pagan New Year, The Third Harvest, the Dark Mysteries, Rebirth through Death.
Gourds, Apples, Black Cats, Jack-O-Lanterns, Besoms.
Mugwort, Allspice, Broom, Catnip, Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake, Oak leaves, Sage and Straw.
Turnips, Apples, Pumpkin Pie, Cranberry Muffins, Mulled Wines, Beef, Pork, Poultry.
Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg, Apple, Sage.
Black, Orange, White, Silver, Gold.
All Black Stones, preferably jet or obsidian.