Cleanse yourself and your alter in a cleansing ritual and draw a circle. Do an opening and a meditation. Remember the Old God has just gone to Side, so this is a time for morning and time to wish him the best on his journey. Also this is the time to help the Godess in the time of her sorrow and offer your support as one of her children. Also remember this is the time to renew your beliefs and to honor your loved ones and friends who have already entered Side or are about to leave this world. This is also the beginning of the wait, ( the anticipation) of the birth of the Baby Year God. So now comes the offerings similiar to Baby showers, helping with the children, etc. Close the circle! Enjoy your feast.
The past two years, I cast a circle, lit some candles and incence, and did whatever came to mind. Being fond of the Tarot, I did a couple of spreads for the coming year, and I wrote out some "New Years Resolutions" that I've sealed up and intend to open on Samhain this year to see if I've kept them. (Hah! Right...)
I like the idea of a place-setting for the recently departed. We've never done it because our gatherings are usually buffet-style. Perhaps we could make a plate for them!
I couldn't find anything rituals I liked, so i am going to have a big party with all of my pagan and non-pagan friends with a bonfire and everything. When all else fails, just do what feels right!!
i know the issue of the blood sacrifice has been on my mind, and i do fully intend to "clean up" as much as i can in astral on Samhain. such a negative action cannot be allowed to fully manifest its magikal aspects, and the souls that were harmed will need help and love to allow them to let go and pass on.
Putting up a personal altar to the Ancestors (the Mexican Day of the Dead is chock full of ideas for this) would be a creative project for the holiday.
admittedly, you might not be able to do exactly this, but maybe lighting a candle and remembering those who have left this earthly incarnation could be a course of action for you. :)
I had been speaking to one young pagan when he mentioned he was considering going to a cemetary & doing a pumkin walk (lighting a small pumkin/ gourd/or turnip carved in a jack-o-lantern~In honor of all the people who were killed during the burning times/& even more recently who were accused of being witches & put to death or tortured because of it...doesn't that sound like something that would really take off?
Here is a typical Samhain ritual as practiced in my Wiccan tradition (also generalized and simplified):
First we create sacred space (cast a circle-which is always considered to be beyond the bounds of time and space) and invoke or Draw Down gods who are appropriate for the holiday (these will vary from coven to coven).
It is said that Samhain (which is considered New Years) is the time when "the veils between the worlds are very thin." Thus, there are two main goals of a Samhain celebration: to commune with and honor our ancestors and departed loved ones and to scry or practice divination in order to see the year ahead... (continued)
One of the traditions in my Religion is to set a place for anyone who has passed over in the last year at the table where everyone is feasting. Something that they wore (preferably) like a watch or ring is placed on or beside the plate and one can also put a picture of them on the chair. They are included in the conversation which often involves telling wonderful stories about them to those who didn't know them. One can either fill their plate as everyone else's is with their favorite foods(which is later sent home with someone who can leave it outside in a garden) or a symbolic meal of pomegranate seeds, nuts like walnuts or almonds and mooncakes can be used which are then placed on the altar afterwards.
At the end of the feast, an outside door is opened and farewells are said to the departed with good wishes and memories to take along on their journey.
I imagine that if you took the words to "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and replaced Christmas with Samhain you'd get the gist of mummering (if that's a word).
What I realised upon reading up on pagan holiday traditions is that there's nothing strange about them at all. As an Englishman most of what I had thought of as the non-religious aspects of holidays like Hallowe'en, Christmas, and Easter come from pre-Christian traditions. They're as familiar as childhood.