In Wicca certain ceremonies and rituals are done according to the Wiccan Calendar, which is also called the Wheel of the Year.
The eight holidays represent the two solstices – Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice – and the two equinoxes that are known as the Autumnal Equinox and the Vernal Equinox. In between these four pagan holidays fall the four pastoral or agricultural festivals.
The Wiccan Holidays are the following:
The festival of light. It is being celebrated on February 2nd. We Wiccans celebrate the Goddess’ recovery from birthing the God. We celebrate the lengthening of the days. Christians celebrate this day as Candlemas, and it is also known as Groundhog Day. On Imbolc, candles are lit everywhere in the house and left to burn. The colors of this holiday are mainly white and orange. The altar is decorated with a wheel (for the wheel of the year) and flowers, for instance heather or snowdrops. During the ritual, milk and cheese, curry dishes and herbal tees are consumed as well as offered as sacrifices to the Goddess and the God.
Celebrated on May 21st. It is an enthusiastic celebration with music and dancing. The earth begins to awaken. The altar is decorated with the fresh green of nature, for instance with Lily of the Valley. Incense consist of frankincense and myrrh. Sacrifices are milk, milk products and herbal tees, and also wine.
Celebrated on May 1st. Beltane is the most important holiday for Wiccans. Everything is fertile, the earth thrives. The sun god has matured into a man and desires the Goddess. They fall in love, and she is pregnant with his child. Wiccans celebrate the fertility of the Goddess and that she became a mother while being a virgin. The festival is very frisky. The altar is decorated with colorful petals, spring flowers and ribbons. The green denotes the Goddess, for the God we erect a small May tree. The incense consists of frankincense, rose and lilac. The sacrifices are cherries, milk products, strawberries and wine. During Beltane, the participants sing and dance around a big fire which is built in a protective circle.
The summer solstice on June 21st is the highlight of the year. Everywhere, the earth shows the fertility given by the God and Goddess. The earth shares her plenty with us – desires which are brought forth during Litha are most often granted. The incense consists of frankincense, lemon, rose and lavender. The altar is decorated with summer flowers and fruit (which is also sacrificed). The colors of this holiday are yellow and orange. There is usually also a sword on the altar and a mirror to catch the sun, or rather the flames of sun. On this day, domestic animals and the family can be blessed and protected in a circle.
On August 1st Wiccans celebrate Lugnasad. The farmers begin the harvest of the grain which was sown in the spring. The God slowly loses its power, the sun becomes weaker. The altar is decorated with corn puppets, braided willow wreaths and stalks of grain. Sunflowers round the whole thing up. Incense consists of sandalwood, rose and aloe. The colors are red and orange. Sacrifices are rice, bread with wheat kernels and berries and apple wine. During the ritual we throw bread crumbs into the fire and throw grain kernel at statues of the Goddess. Lugnasad is a festival of thanksgiving for the fertile soil in which a good harvest has grown.
Mabon is celebrated on September 21st, it is the fall equinox. The God prepares to die, to begin a journey into the Unseen. Fall is clearly present. The trees begin to lose their leaves. We celebrate this holiday once more with the fruits given by the fall. The altar is decorated with acorns, pine cones and colorful leaves. Incense consists of myrrh, sage and pine. The colors are dark red and brown. Sacrifices and dishes are bread and root vegetables, apple wine and fruit juices.
Celebrated on October 31st, Halloween. This is the parting from our God, yet knowing that it is only a brief separation as he will be born again from the Goddess at the Winter solstice. We use this day to meditate, honor the dead and let their memories live. The altar is decorated with Pumpkins, Photos of our departed loved ones, fall flowers and nuts. Sacrifices are apples, nuts and cranberry muffins with apple wine or mulled wine. Incense consists of nutmeg, sage or mint. Usually there is also a dark mirror on the altar which allows for contacting the departed. If we have a question for a departed one, we concentrate on the mirror during the ritual, the answer comes the next night in a dream. After the holiday, the leftovers remain behind for the spirits.
The winter solstice on December 21st stands for the reincarnation of the sun god through the Goddess. The altar is decorated with a white or yellow table cloth; a yellow or white candle should already be present. Incense consists of frankincense, oak or myrrh. We sacrifice bread and wine.
Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice and has been celebrated for thousands of years. The winter solstice this year is on the 21st December.
For 6 days at this time of year the sun appears to stand still on the horizon. It was a time of uncertainty and mystery as the ancients wondered if indeed the sun would return. When it did return, year after year, festivals grew up in just about every place and culture.
The ancients realised that the solstice was the longest night of the year. It was a time of celebration and rejoicing in the knowledge that soon the warm days of spring would return, and the dormant earth would come back to life.
The Celebration of the Holidays
Different traditions celebrate some or, all of the pagan holidays in their own way. Similarities and differences are predominant among all of them. The main activity on these holidays is the performance of rituals. As long as the rituals are performed it does not matter whether it is being done alone or, in a group. This shows that the wheel of the year is equally important for the solitary witches as they are to the covens.
The Purposes of the Holidays
These holidays and their celebrations make sure that the members of the Wiccan faith understand a few basic principles. Firstly, the followers must learn to respect the divine forces and abide by them. Secondly, these dates and the related celebrations should be used to get spiritually cleansed and charged. Thirdly, earth is never stationary and its energies shift with the seasons. Therefore, a Wiccan or Pagan must learn to align oneself with the shifting energies of the earth.
A very interesting fact about the Wiccan Holidays is that there are plants, herbs, fruits, vegetables, and other items singularly associated with them. These play a large role in celebrating the holiday. For example, Lammas is associated with corn dolls, ash, juniper, wheat and apples; Litha is associated with yellow and gold ribbons, blade, emerald, jade, oak and chamomile; Samhain is associated with straw, oak leaf, obsidian and gourd; Mabon is associated with wine, acorn, pomegranate and sapphire and so on.
This also shows that Wicca is based on admiration and worship of natural forces. Some of the sabbaths correspond with farming and harvest festivals of natives. Some of them take place on dates that celebrate Christian festivals like Halloween, Christmas and Thanksgiving.