Pagans celebrate 8 major holidays a year, which we call “sabbats”. You will probably find by looking at the list of holidays below that some look familiar. That is because these holidays existed long before the Christian faith came along. When the Roman’s were trying to outlaw paganism thousands of years ago, many pagan holidays were changed into what we now celebrate as “Christian” holidays. But many of the actual reasons they were celebrated stayed the same. Here is a list of our Major Sabbats, and when they occur.
Samhain (October 31st) – This is the Pagan “new year”, and it marks the end of one year and the beginning of another. During this time we honor those who have passed away from us, and also recognize the changing of the seasons. We try to let go of bad habits at Samhain (pronounced SOW-en), and try to focus on things that need to be changed in our lives. This is also the time of the “death” of the Sun God, who will be reborn at Yule.
Yule (December 21) – This holiday is essentially our “Christmas” celebration. We celebrate by lighting the Yule log, and watching the sun rise (which symbolizes the Sun God’s rebirth on this day). Since this sabbat celebrates the winter solstice, we celebrate the beginning of light returning to the earth. We celebrate this holiday by exchanging gifts, decorating a tree, hanging wreaths and mistletoe, singing, feasting, and making merry!
Imbolc (February 2) – Imbolc (pronounced IM-bolk) is the time when pagans celebrate the renewing fertility of the earth. As winter slowly turns to spring, we are reminded that life is about to burst forth. We celebrate Imbolc by planting seeds, or begining new projects…anything that focuses on the “beginning” of things.
Ostara (March 21) – Ostara (pronounced oh-STAR-ah) is almost celebrated the same as Easter is. On this day we celebrate renewed life and fertility by boiling and decorating eggs, going on egg hunts, and blessing seeds for growth. Anything which celebrates fertility and growth!
Beltane (April 30) – This day is symbolic to us of the God and Goddess uniting in a handfasting (marriage). In this act, they help the Earth to burst forth with life and growth. We celebrate Beltane by dancing around the maypole, or wearing flowers or foliage in their hair, or by bringing flowers into the house.
Litha (June 21) – Litha (pronouced Lee-tha) is the summer solstice, and is generally not celebrated as much as the other sabbats are. This day marks where the God and Goddess are at their peak, but soon the days will grow shorter and shorter. In the past pagans would celebrate this night with a large bonfire, but recently it is only marked with love spells and rituals, and rituals involving nature.
Lammas (August 2) – Lammas is the first harvest festival for pagans. It is the day when tradionally the first grain was cut. It is traditional to celebrate this day by baking bread or other “grain” foods. We also celebrate by holding great feasts to celebrate the bountiful harvest, and decorating our houses with autumn decorations.
Mabon (September 21) – The second harvest festival for pagans. It is held on the Autumn equinox to celebrate the last fruits and harvest of the year. Feasts are also held in celebration, but to a more solemn extent. Cornucopias are a popular decoration, as are ears of corn, gourds, pumpkins, and other late season vegetables.
In addition to the above 8 major sabbats, most Pagans also celebrate “Esbats” which are held once a month to celebrate the moon. While the sabbats celebrate the “God” aspect, the Esbats celebrate the “Goddess” aspect. Esbats are generally held on the full moon.