Wiccan HolidaysThe Wiccan year does not begin on January first like the calendars bought in a typical store but the year begins on October 31. There are eight major festival or holidays in the Wiccan year, the four that mark the seasons and the four that mark the mid-seasons.
The year begins with Samhain which is celebrated on October 31. Some prefer to celebrate the festival on November 1. Samhain marks the end of the third and final harvest. It is a time when time and space are temporarily suspended allowing spirits to cross over. It is one of two spirit days. A single candle is placed in the window to help wayward spirits find their way home. Sometimes food is left out and extra chairs are set at the table for any unseen guests who may arrive. The wee folk play pranks and people dress up in costumes to fool the Nature spirit. Samhain is the origin for the modern day Halloween where children not spirits collect food and dress up in costume to fool the adults.
The second holiday is Yule which is celebrated on December 21 - the winter solstice. It is a time to celebrate the birth of the Sun god. The winter solstice marks the end of the days growing shorter and they once again begin to grow longer as the Sun god gets stronger.
The third holiday Imbolc marks the point of mid winter on February 2. Known as the festival of the lactating sheep, it is taken from the Gaelic oimelc which means ewes milk. At this time many of the animals are giving birth or are in the process of giving birth and their breasts are full of milk for the coming young. Mother Nature's snake emerges to test the weather - the origin of Ground Hog Day.
Next is Ostara the Vernal Equinox on March 21. This is a day when night and day are equally balanced. It is a time of rebirth and renewal. The end of winter, the world is once again coming to life as Mother Nature dons her mantle of green.
Beltane is the second of the spirits nights and occurs on April 30. Meaning fire of Bel, the day is a celberation of Belios the Sun god. Life has returned and the world is full of colour. New life is not limited to the world of nature; however, it is a time of promiscuity as well.
The opposite of Yule is Litha. Held on June 21 the summer solstice marks the time when the Sun god has attained his greatest strength. The days will begin to grow shorter as the nights begin to grow longer.
Lughnasodh is on July 31; the funeral of Lugh is a time of harvest. The Sun god is growing old and losing his strength and autumn apporaches.
Mabon held on September 21 marks the last festival of the year. Nearing the end of another year and cycle the autumnal equinox again marks a balance between night and day. It is a time to pay respects to the coming darkness of winter and celebrate the waning of the sun.
Wiccan festival days are simple and ordered marking the seasons and events of the year much as a farmer whose life circles around the events on his farm. The festivals celebrate life and the coming of life as each season passes.