Pagan Holidays and The Wheel of the Year For Beginners (2022 + 2023)

Pagan Holidays and The Wheel of the Year For Beginners

Pagan Holidays and the Wheel of the Year are often celebrated by Pagans, Witches, Wiccans, and anyone interested in Nature Spirituality. There are many different ways to honor the seasons! The choice is entirely up to you and is a very personal part of your spiritual practice.

Hopefully, this will give you a good overview so you can decide for yourself. At the bottom of each Pagan Holiday, a linked article will go more into depth if you’re interested in learning more.

Please note that I make every effort to ensure this information is correct and accurate through my own experiences and referencing sources throughout AND at the bottom of this article.

Posts on this site may contain affiliate links that allow me to earn a small commission from your purchases (at no extra cost to you!)

What is a Pagan Holiday?

Pagan holidays consist of celebrating and honoring the seasons of Nature wherever we live. It can be as easy or complicated as you choose to make it, just like any other holiday.

Find a way to connect with Nature in your area or the spiritual intentions the holiday represents. A simple meal with a loved one, meditating alone with a candle, journaling, or a walk outside can be your celebration if you’d like.

As you read through this article, you’ll find celebrations, holidays, or traditions today have many similarities to ancient Pagan holidays, and it’s fascinating to learn about their origins.

What is the Wheel of the Year?

Pagan holidays celebrate the seasonal cycles, sometimes referred to as the Wheel of the Year, which consists of eight holidays roughly six weeks apart.

Four of these festivals (Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain) are rooted in Celtic history and origins. The day of celebration lands on the same date every year.

The other four (Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Winter Solstice) represent the sun’s location so that the celebration date can vary each year.

The northern and southern hemispheres celebrate the Wheel of the Year on different days and months due to the seasonality of each holiday.

The modern-day Wheel of the Year was first suggested by the scholar and mythologist Jacob Grimm (1785-1863 CE) in his 1835 CE work, Teutonic Mythology, and fixed in its present form in the 1950s and early ’60s CE by the Wicca movement.

World History – Wheel of the Year
Wheel of the Year drawn in Journal

However, it’s important to note that not every Pagan celebrates all eight holidays. Depending on each practitioner’s spiritual beliefs, they may choose only to celebrate the Celtic fire festivals. Some may choose only to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes, and some may mix and match.

The Wheel of the Year term and concept was adopted and used by Gerald Gardner from Jacob Grimm when creating Wicca, along with other members of his coven during the early 1950s. They were attempting to modernize ancient Pagan traditions and pulled from Celtic and Middle East celebrations, among many others.

Gerald Gardner did not initially want to include the solstices and equinoxes in the Wheel of the Year and only wanted to focus on the Celtic fire festivals. However, Druidism was celebrated by most of Gardner’s coven, including the High Priestess Doreen Valiente and the solstices were a part of their spiritual practice. So naturally, they wanted to continue this spiritual belief and include it in their Wiccan faith.

However, six holidays felt irregular, so they added the equinoxes to create a perfect balance. This is why you’ll see the equinoxes with additional names (Ostara and Mabon), but I’ll go into that more in-depth for each holiday listed below.

You do not need to be Wiccan to celebrate the Wheel of the Year or Pagan holidays. There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate Nature and the seasons, so feel free to choose what resonates with you most!

Pagan And Witchy Planner 2022 Printable PDF

Pagan and Witchy Planner Printable 2022 The Peculiar Brunette
This printable includes (56 pages) – Monthly planner, Weekly planner, Daily planner, Notes page (blank and lined), Blank journaling page,
½ page seasonal holidays spread to put on your altar and correspondences list, Spiritual habit tracking, Calendar monthly overview including US holidays, Canadian holidays, Mercury Retrogrades, Moon Phases, and Eclipses. Affirmations page,
365 daily journal prompts for goal setting, manifesting, easing anxiety, shadow work, and living in harmony with the seasons and moon cycles. Monthly Things That Made Me Smile page (supplement to 365 journal prompts), Affirmation bookmarks, Word of the year page, and original printable artwork of Medusa for your altar or to include in your planner.

How To Celebrate the Pagan Wheel of the Year

Most of us are not harvesting fields or worried about our livestock as the ancient Pagans were. Most of us don’t harvest anything larger than a garden, so it’s easy to become disengaged from the process.

Although we may not be working farmland, reflect on what would happen if a catastrophic event made it impossible for our food to be delivered to local stores. (Although maybe not so hard to imagine after 2020). Simple gratitude for the privileges we enjoy that our ancestors did not is a beautiful way to celebrate the Wheel of the Year.

You can also focus on the spiritual intentions these holidays represent and modernize them to fit into your practice (this is sometimes referred to as Pagan reconstructionism).

Slow down and fully immerse yourself in the season around you. If you feel stuck, remember the wonder and excitement for the seasons you felt as a child. Did you love swimming at the local lake, catching snowflakes on your tongue, or running barefoot across the grass? Nostalgic memories are the best place to begin when deciding how you want to celebrate Pagan holidays or the Wheel of the Year.

Pagan Holidays Winter Solstice

Saturnalia

Saturnalia was a wild and riotous Roman festival honoring the god of agriculture, Saturn. However, it expanded over time from very humble beginnings.

Early on Saturnalia began with farmers who undertook gift-giving customs and offerings to the gods during the Winter sowing season. These activities were thought to gain favor with the gods, enabling farmers to reap a bountiful harvest. 

The holiday was first observed on a single day, but due to its popularity, it grew and expanded. Due to popular demand, a seven-day festival was established, and Saturnalia was observed from December 17th to December 23rd.

Eventually, the celebrations began with a massive and publicized sacrificial ceremony at Saturn’s temple. Following that, there were many days of feasting, drinking, entertainment, and gambling. Saturnalia is a holiday intended to disrupt social rules. The most famous example is the role reversal between slaves and their owners. Slaves were encouraged to eat with their masters, defy them, and in some cases, slaves were served dinner by their masters.

If you’d like more in-depth information about Saturnalia including traditions and influence on modern Christmas celebrations, check out this article.

Yule and the Winter Solstice

The Winters Solstice is sometimes referred to as Yule or Yuletide. Winter Solstice typically lands around December 21st in the Northern Hemisphere (June 21st for the Southern Hemisphere) but can vary based on the sun’s location.

This Pagan holiday celebrates that the longest night has arrived, and from this point forward, each day will grow longer and warmer. The light is returning, and you’ll see this symbolized in many of the symbols and decorations like a Yule log.

The Pagan holiday of Winter Solstice finds its roots in many cultures throughout history, including the Roman celebration Saturnalia, the Egyptians who honored the return of Ra (the sun god), and the Old Norse celebration of Jól, which consisted of a twelve-day feast. It was common for many celebrations to last several days.

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Celebrating Christmas began in Rome around 336, but it did not become popular until the 9th century.

Since many Roman Pagans celebrated the sun’s return and the rebirth of warmer days to come, it’s believed Christians connected this idea to Jesus and the birth of the Son.

However, the exact origination of Christmas is unclear, and the New Testament is ambiguous.

It’s possible Christians wanted to encourage Pagans to join their faith. Incorporating existing celebrations may have made the task easier despite trying to separate themselves from Pagan beliefs.

In ancient Rome, December 25 was a celebration of the Unconquered Sun, marking the return of longer days. It followed Saturnalia, a festival where people feasted and exchanged gifts. The church in Rome began celebrating Christmas on December 25 in the 4th century during the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, possibly to weaken pagan traditions.

Britannica – Christmas Origin, Definition, Traditions, History & Facts

If you’d like more in-depth information on Winter Solstice and Yule, including Traditions, How To Celebrate, Rituals, Correspondences & Decoration Ideas check out this article

Imbolc

Imbolc begins at sundown on February 1st until sundown on February 2nd (August 1st – 2nd for the Southern Hemisphere) and is also referred to as Imbolg, Feast of St Brigid, and Oimelc (which means “ewe’s milk” in Gaelic).

Imbolc is a Celtic fire festival that honors the halfway point between Winter and Spring. It’s officially Midwinter, and even though the days are getting lighter, it’s still dark and chilly outside. This Pagan holiday is a beautiful time for growth, development, and introspection; journal prompts for Imbolc can help you connect to the season.

Celebrations on Imbolc are all centered around the coming of Spring and are associated with the Celtic goddess Brigid. There may still be snow on the ground or cold days ahead, but you’ll notice that the light lasts a little longer each day, and Nature is beginning to stir.

If you’d like more in-depth information on Imbolc including Traditions, How To Celebration, History, Correspondences, and Simple Ritual Ideas check out this article

Wheel of the Year Imbolc

Lupercalia

Lupercalia was an ancient pagan celebration held in Rome on February 15th each year. Although some historians claim it occurred on February 13th and continued through February 15th.

Lupercalia was a Roman celebration that celebrated purification, fertility, and the banishment of evil spirits. Its origins can be linked back to at least the 6th century BC, and its name comes from the Latin word lupus, which means wolf. This Pagan festival included animal sacrifices and fertility ceremonies, as well as feasting and general debauchery. 

You’ll often hear claims that Lupercalia is the origin of Valentine’s Day. However, many aspects of Lupercalia are the subject of debate, with experts taking alternative perspectives on its origins, practices, and rituals. This is especially true regarding the history of Valentine’s Day.

If you’d like more in-depth information about Lupercalia, including Traditions, Rituals, and Origins check out this article

Spring Equinox Pagan Celebration

Spring Equinox and Ostara

The Spring Equinox also referred to as the Vernal Equinox, begins on the 20th or 21st of March in the Northern Hemisphere (September 20th or 21st in the Southern Hemisphere) but can vary based on the sun’s location.

This Pagan holiday is associated with fresh beginnings, optimism, and hope! Our ambitions and aspirations appear to be within reach, and we set out to accomplish them with enthusiasm!

The Spring Equinox is a time of balance since night and day are equal right now. You’ll often see eggs incorporated into decorations and rituals due to their correspondences with growth, birth, transition, and fertility.

Wiccans refer to this holiday as the Ostara sabbat (pronounced ah-star-ah) after the Germanic goddess of Spring. There is some debate about whether or not her origins are from the goddess Eostre (pronounced ee-ah-stray or ee-ah-ster).

In 725 CE, a monk named Bede (pronounced bee-d) mentioned Eostre for the first time. According to Bede, Pagans celebrated and honored Eostre with feasts before Christians celebrated Easter.

Although it is unknown whether the Spring Equinox was celebrated in the same way that we do now, it is clear that many cultures aligned temples and structures with the sun during this time. Many goddesses and deities are also associated with Spring, such as Cernunnos, Freya, Persephone, Aphrodite, Venus, and many more!

If you’d like more in-depth information on the Spring Equinox and Ostara including History, Traditions, Ritual Ideas, Correspondences, Journal Prompts, and How To Celebrate check out this article.

Pagan Holidays Beltane Celebration

Beltane

Beltane begins at sundown on April 30th until sundown on May 1st (October 31st – November 1st in the southern hemisphere) and marks the halfway point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.

Many cultures celebrated the anticipated longer days ahead. Still, Beltane can be traced back to Roman’s annual celebration of Floralia, which began in 238 BCE and was held at the end of April and early May and honored the goddess Flora (the goddess of fertility, flora, and flowers). 

From those early Roman celebrations of Floralia, the Irish and Scottish adopted a blend of spiritual practices known as Bealtaine and Bealltainn, respectively. 

Beltane is Celtic for “bright fire,” and while we are limited on the observed celebrations, we know it was focused on protecting their cattle, crops, and families. Bonfires were also heavily used in celebration, probably to symbolize the sun and destroy any evil spirits that may try to harm crops or livestock.

Though Beltane celebrations have evolved, they generally are associated with sexuality, prosperity, protection, and lust. You can see why it’s a popular Pagan holiday and why phallic symbols, like Maypoles, are often incorporated into decorations and rituals.

If you’d like more detailed information on Beltane Traditions, History, Rituals, Correspondences, and Celebration Ideas check out this article.

Summer Solstice Celebration

Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice is also referred to as Midsummer, Alban Heflin, or Litha and is the longest day of the year. It typically lands on June 20th – 22nd (December 20th to 23rd in the Southern Hemisphere) but can vary based on the sun’s location.

Most Pagans and Witches choose to celebrate Summer Solstice, although there is debate over the history and origins of the holiday and whether or not it was indeed celebrated.

We do know that many structures and spiritual locations align with the Summer Solstice, and ancient pagans would travel to sacred wells and waters to worship. The Summer Solstice is the end of the planting season; the following three Pagan holidays focus on harvesting and reaping the benefits of our hard work.

Although the Summer Solstice marks the sun’s highest and most powerful point, the Wheel of the Year has turned, and darkness will begin to triumph over light. Each day will become shorter and the nights longer.

Summer’s spiritual intentions are associated with love, creativity, growth, joy, and empowerment.

If you’d like more detailed information on the Summer Solstice Rituals, Traditions, History, Correspondences, and Celebration Ideas check out this article.

Lughnasadh Wheel of the year

Lughnasadh

The Lughnasadh holiday typically starts on July 31st at sundown and continues through August 1st until sundown (January 31st through February 1st in the southern hemisphere). There are some Pagans and Witches who prefer to celebrate around August 5th or 6th due to the location of the sun, which is called Old Lammas.

Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nah-sah) celebrates the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It represents the beginning of the harvest season, which is why you’ll see many grain and corn correspondences.

This Pagan holiday’s name comes from Ireland and the Celtic god Lugh. Lughnasadh means Lugh’s Gathering.

Some of the spiritual intentions of Lughnasadh are gratitude, renewal, giving, and reaping what you’ve sown.

If you’d like more detailed information on Lughnasadh Traditions, Rituals, Correspondences, and Celebration Ideas check out this article

Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox

The Autumn Equinox typically occurs around September 20 – 24th (March 20 – 24 in the Southern Hemisphere) but can vary based on the sun’s location.

In Latin, the word equinox translates to “equal night,” and the Autumn Equinox is the second holiday that represents harmony since night and day are balanced again. The Autumn Equinox is also referred to as Mabon, Alban Elfed, Winter Finding, Feast of Avalon, or the Witches Thanksgiving.

Some of the spiritual intentions of the Autumn Equinox are home protection, transitions, gratitude, shadow work, and preparation for Winter.

If you’d like more detailed information on the Autumn Equinox Traditions, Correspondences, and Celebration Ideas check out this article.

Samhain Pagan Holidays

Samhain

Samhain (pronounced Sah-Win, SOW-in, or Sah-ween) typically begins at sundown on October 31st until sundown on November 1st (May 1st in the Southern Hemisphere).

However, some spiritual practitioners are passionate about celebrating the exact halfway point between the Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, which will vary each year based on celestial timing. Other practitioners choose to celebrate on the full Moon closest to Samhain.

Samhain is also known as All Hallows Eve, Halloween, Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos), and many others!

Nature is decaying all around us, yet she is also resting beneath the surface, preparing for new life and rejuvenation in the Spring. Why not do some self-reflection and create new goals for yourself as well?

Some of the spiritual intentions of Samhain are ancestors, death, thinning of the Veil, planning, and preservation.

If you’d like more detailed information on Samhain History, Traditions, Correspondences, and Celebration Ideas check out this article.

Seasonal Pagan Holidays

Pagan Holidays and Wheel of the Year Dates 2023

(Northern Hemisphere)

Imbolc

February 1st – 2nd (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Spring Equinox (Ostara)

March 20th


Beltane

April 30th – May 1st (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Summer Solstice (Litha)

June 21st


Lughnasadh (Lammas)

July 31st – August 1st (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Autumn Equinox (Mabon)

September 23rd


Samhain

October 31st – November 1st (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Winter Solstice (Yule)

December 21st


Pagan Holidays and Wheel of the Year Dates 2022

(Northern Hemisphere)

Imbolc

February 1st – 2nd (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Spring Equinox (Ostara)

March 20th


Beltane

April 30th – May 1st (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Summer Solstice (Litha)

June 21st


Lughnasadh (Lammas)

July 31st – August 1st (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Autumn Equinox (Mabon)

September 22nd


Samhain

October 31st – November 1st (beginning at sundown and continuing until sundown the next day)


Winter Solstice (Yule)

December 21st


I hope this post on the Pagan Holidays and The Wheel of the Year was helpful!! Lots of love to you and remember as always…

Sources

Mark, Joshua. Wheel of the Year. World History Encyclopedia. 28 Jan 2019. https://www.worldhistory.org/Wheel_of_the_Year/

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