The Wheel of the Year: Celebrating Nature's Holidays

The Wheel of the Year: Celebrating Nature's Holidays

Ann Meyer

There is a good chance you have heard of something called the Wheel of the Year, or even participated in one of its holidays. The Wheel of the Year consists of eight nature-based sabbots, which are typically celebrated by pagans and wiccans, but are open to anyone who wishes to join in. These holidays include four solar holidays which fall on the equinoxes and solstices and four seasonal holidays which mark the midpoints between the two. All eight of the celebrations are based around nature and the different cycles of the growing season in the Northern hemisphere. Each holiday honors a different part of the year and has a different lesson for us to learn. Since the holidays fall on specific points during the Earth's rotation, they do not fall on the same day every year, rather there is a timeframe in which the celebration occurs.

Yule: December 19-23

  • Yule is typically considered the first holiday within the Wheel of the Year. It occurs on the winter solstice and marks the shortest day of the year. 
  • Yule celebrates the rebirth of the sun and the return of longer days ahead.
  • Folklore tells that this is when the mighty Oak and Holly Kings have their infamous battle, in which the Holly King is defeated and the Oak King takes the throne. 
  • Popular: Yule logs, yule trees/evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe.

Imbolc: February 1-2

  • Imbolc is the midpoint between Yule (winter solstice) and Ostara (spring equinox).
  • Imbolc celebrates rebirth, fertility, hope, and the promise of spring.
  • The main deity celebrated during this time is Brigid, the Celtic goddess associated with wisdom, poetry, healing, protection, blacksmithing, and domesticated animals.
  • Popular: Dolls made from cornstalk, preparing seeds for spring planting, witch hazel trees, honoring Brigid.
Ostara: March 19-23
  • Ostara falls on the spring equinox. 
  • Ostara celebrates the return of spring, welcoming growth and renewal. 
  • In some beliefs, this is the time that Persephone leaves the underworld and returns to her mother Demeter.
  • Popular: Dyeing eggs, rabbits, candy/sweets, prepping the garden 

Beltane: April 30- May 1

  • Beltane marks the halfway point between Ostara (spring equinox) and Beltane (summer solstice).
  • Beltane celebrates welcoming summer and honoring that spark of life.
  • Spirits and fairies come out to play during this time. It is believed that it is one of two times a year (the other being Samhain) when the veil is thin. Fires, especially bonfires, play an important role in this holiday. 
  • Popular: Maypoles, flower crowns, dancing, bonfires.

Litha: June 19-23

  • Litha falls on the summer solstice and marks the longest day of the year.
  • Litha celebrates happiness, energy, and the earth reaching its peak. Plants are in full force during this time and the days are filled with sunshine.
  • During Litha, the Oak and Holly Kings have another mighty battle. This time the Oak King is defeated and the Holly King will regain the throne. 
  • Popular: Honey cakes, fresh fruit, flowers, dancing, bonfires, marriage.

Lughnasadh: August 1-2

  • Lughnasadh marks the midpoint between Litha (summer solstice) and Mabon (autumn equinox).
  • Lughnasadh is the first of three harvest festivals. We honor the first fruits, the shortening of the days, and welcome the harvest season during this time. 
  • The god Lugh is typically celebrated during this time. He is known as the god of order and truth.
  • Popular: Fruits, gardening, preparing for autumn, harvesting, reflecting.

Mabon: September 20-24

  • Mabon falls on the autumn equinox. 
  • Mabon marks the shift between summer and autumn. This is the second of three harvest festivals. This is the time of year to give thanks, especially to the earth and garden spirits. 
  • During this time, Persephone is said to leave the living world and return to the underworld. Her mom Demeter is sad, and she begins to kill off all the plants. 
  • Popular: Giving thanks, harvesting, squash, apples, mushrooms.

Samhain: October 31- November 1

  • Samhain is the last festival in the Wheel of the Year, and the halfway point between Mabon (autumn equinox) and Yule (winter solstice).
  • Samhain is a time to honor death, welcome winter, harvest the last of the garden, and do shadow and ancestral work. It is the last of three harvest festivals and marks the end of the harvest season.
  • During this time of the year, the veil between the physical and the spirit world is thin, making it easier to connect with spirit. This also happens during Beltane. Samhain is about remembering and celebrating those who have passed on. 
  • Popular: Feasts for passed loved ones, pumpkins, candles, shadow work, welcoming winter. 

Illustration by Midnightblueowl

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