Samhain: October 31 All Saints and All Souls Days: November 1st and 2nd, respectively The Christian celebration dates to the fourth century. It commemorates the lives of the saints and the people who have passed on. It was moved to November 1st by Pope Gregory III to coincide with Pagan celebrations. Common theme: Remembrance of our ancestors Ritual practice: The dumb supper is one way to acknowledge the presence of our ancestors on the night of Samhain. It is believed that on this night, the veil between the realm of the living and of the dead is extremely thin and that our ancestors can come back to visit. The dumb supper consists of setting an extra place at the dinner table to welcome them back and to share in their company as we used to when they were living amongst us. It is a great family ritual that teaches that death is a passage and that the ones who have passed on are never really forgotten.
Yule: December 21 Christmas: December 25 Yule is celebrated on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. The date for Christmas was chosen by the roman Emperor Aurelian in the third century, to coincide with the feast of the Unconquered Sun. So, for both these feasts, we see a strong association with the power of the sun. Many pagan traditions were incorporated in the Christmas feast. Boniface introduced the Christmas tree, which was a Germanic tradition. Also, Santa Claus is an amalgamation of St. Nikolas and the god Odin. Common theme: Encouraging light in times of darkness. This light is represented in various ways: the unconquered sun, the star of Bethlehem, Jesus as the light of the world, or simply by the ritual use of candles. Ritual practice: Burning candles throughout the night is a practice of both Pagans and Christians. Christians still perform a midnight mass on this night, a symbol of keeping the light burning in the darkest of the night. Pagans let candles burn all night long to give strength to the sun on the longest night of the year.
Imbolc: February 2nd Candlemas: February 2nd Imbolc celebrates the efforts of the God to woo the Goddess out of her wintry sleep. For Christians, this date also honors the sacred feminine in the person of the Virgin Mary. It is called Candlemas because it is customary to burn candles in a procession on this date. Common theme: Devotion to the Goddess Ritual practice: Imbolc or Candlemas is a great day to honor the Sacred Feminine. It can be done in a traditional way, like burning candles and offering flowers at a shrine in Her honor. This date also coincides with the feast of St. Brigid, a Druid whose life work was to tend to women’s health, particularly in childbirth. What better way, then, to honor this special day by volunteering or making a donation to your local women’s shelter.#
Ostara: March 21st Easter: First Sunday after the full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox Common theme: Rebirth Ostara celebrates the coming of spring and return of life after the dead of winter. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ after his descent into the realm of the dead. Ritual practice: There are so many ways to celebrate life. One way that I find links both the Pagan and the Christian philosophy is by the blessing of the elements. This is done at the Easter vigil service every year, and I find that there is no better connection between Pagan and Christian rites than this. There is the blessing of the fire and of the water, and the burning of incense to sanctify the altar. Flowers are all around the altar. It really is a great representation of all the elements Wiccans work with regularly. You can perform the blessing of the elements in your own home with your own personalized ritual. You can then take this holy water to bless yourself and your home in a commitment to bringing forth life everywhere you go.
Beltane: May 1st May Day: May 1st May Day is a festival that has been somewhat lost. It used to feature young girls walking in procession behind the statue of the Virgin Mary. It seemed to indicate that these girls were of age to get married.Beltane is a fertility festival with the May Pole dance an obvious symbol of the Great Rite. Common theme: Fertility Ritual practice: A way to commemorate fertility is through a symbolic Great Rite, representing the copulation of the God and Goddess to bring life back on earth. You can use any two items that represent feminine receptivity and male virility and unite them into a state of completeness. It is a day to be a little frivolous and let you hair down, go out on the town with a significant other or go on the prowl for that special someone…
Litha: June 21st St. John the Baptist: June 24th These feasts commemorate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the beginning of the harvest season. Common theme: The link between the two feasts is thin, but the importance of St. John’s day in many parts of the world is a testimony to the importance of this day. It is a time where the solar energy is at its highest. It is a time to commemorate that strength by soaking up this great gift. Ritual practice: A common practice is the lighting of bonfires. It brings back this theme of energy and strength that this day is all about.Lammas: August 1st Loaf Mass: August 1st Loaf mass is not celebrated anymore in the regular Church calendar. It dates back to the early Church, when it was common to make an offering of the first fruits of the harvest as a sign of thanksgiving. Particularly, on August 1st, people brought bread that was baked with the new wheat to be blessed during the church service.
Lammas celebrates the wheat harvest and the blessing of livestock. Common theme: Giving thanks for the wheat harvest Ritual practice: Baking and sharing bread is a ritual both Pagans and Christians can relate to. It is especially relevant to Christians as a commemoration of the Eucharist.Mabon: September 21st Thanksgiving: Variable date (Canadian Thanksgiving coincides more closely in date with Mabon) Common theme: Giving thanks for the harvest Ritual practice: There is no greater ritual than preparing a meal with the fruits of the harvest and giving thanks for all our blessings. That is communing with nature and the divine in the most fundamentally human way!I hope that this quick turn of the Wheel of the Year has given you a new way of looking at the celebrations Pagans and Christians share. If you are looking towards a practice in Christian Witchcraft, I hope this has inspired you to find new ways of expressing your own special tradition. For those of you who are strictly Pagan, I hope that this overview also helps in linking with family members and friends who may be of Christian upbringing. Seeing the elements that unite rather than divide is a great way to continue to participate in celebrations and to educate others on the fact that we are not that different.