Pagan Holiday Calendar 2015 narrates the major festival of the Pagan community. By Paganism we refer to a religious belief that is not dependant on a central authoritative figure.
This encompasses a diverse group of people. As such Pagan religion is polytheistic in nature. Consequently the community too cannot be restricted to those with a set of beliefs. The community is as diverse as the beliefs that are nurtured by them.
This is the reason why Pagan festivals too are many and they have different names and forms of celebrations among the different sects. However there are some festivals that are primary in nature and are celebrated among all the branches of Paganism.
The Pagan festivals find their roots on folklores and Nature. Pagan religion has always put Mother Earth and Mother Nature on a high altar. The dates of the Pagan festivals are calculated on the basis of quarter or cross quarter days, depend on full or new moon, and are often adjusted to accommodate the nearest weekend. Celebrations of Pagan festivals mostly involve community gathering as the celebrations take place mostly out of doors amidst traditional rituals and observances.
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Among the various Pagan festivals there are eight which are commonly observed by all the sects of Paganism. These are also considered to be the most significant of the annual celebrations. Together these eight observances have been named as The Wheel of the Year. These festivals have seasonal importance and agricultural significance.
- February 2, Imbolc – Imbolc (pronunciation: ‘im’olk’) is also known by the name of Oimel. Etymologically, the term can be traced to an Irish word that when literally translated means “in the belly”. This is one of the most significant of the Pagan traditions. This is based on the Celtic Calendar. This festival is celebrated about six months prior to the reaping time of the harvest. This is a festival where the people gather to pray so that the divine force in invoked which they believe would ensure a bountiful harvest for them. This is the time of the year when the stock of food that was accumulated for winter is nearly consumed, and as such prayers become essential so that there is no scarcity of food in the next season either. To celebrate, people gather around a bon fire. This day is also considered a holy day for the Goddess of Fire who goes by the name of Brigid or Brigit. She is believed to have powers to heal and bless with fertility. The fire plays an important part in the celebrations for here Fire represents the Sun who would soon gather more strengths in the coming months as summer sets in.
- March 20, Ostara/ Eoster (Spring Equinox) – Pagans celebrate Spring to welcome the renewal of life on Earth. On this day the Goddess Ostara is worshipped. Ostara is believed to bless her devotees with fertility like Spring. The festival coincides with the change in season and the Pagans believe that this change to a milder season signifies that the Gods and Goddesses are regaining more and more strength. Many traditional rituals mark the occasion. Along with that many fun activities too are held to uphold the festive spirit. Often a man and woman are selected to represent the Spring God and Goddess who then enact courtship before the community. They then symbolically plant seeds. Egg hunt, Egg Races, Egg painting etc too are organized.
- May 1, Beltane – Literally translated the word means Fires of Bel. Bel is the name of a Celtic Deity. In its true essence Beltane is a Fire Festival that is organized to celebrate the advent of the summer season. Summer is a very important season for the agrarian society for summer blesses the land with fertility and brings about the time for harvesting. Pagans believe in the significance of the Wheel of Seasons for they believe that the changes in season are intertwined with the changing needs of the people. Fire according to Celtic belief is the source where one can get purified and cleansed. It is also believed to have capacity to boost fertility. There are many traditional customs and rituals revolving round this festival. Cattles are often made to walk between two fires in an attempt to increase their fertility. It is believed that leaping over the celebratory fire would usher in good times. People also dance around maypole. This is the time that is considered ideal for courtship and for matchmaking too. It is a common custom to pair young men and women at this time for courtship and fix their wedding in the near future.
- June 21, Litha (Summer Solstice) – Literally the term Litha means “When the Sun stands still”. This day signifies the longest day of the year. This is the time when the sun is believed to be at the highest point of elevation. The Celtic culture has always held the Sun at a high altar and has always revered it for its power and glory. This is the time of the year when the fertility is at its highest. In some Pagan sects this day is observed as the day of union of Gods and Goddesses which the devotees believe would bring good harvest. This is the time when the Celtic people celebrate harvest and also humbly remember the Cycle of Life for this is the time of the year from when the start would again start to lose its power and strength after having gained the maximum glory. People often begin the day by watching together the rising sun.
- August 1, Lughnasadh – Lammas – Lammas is also known by the name of Lughnasadh (pronunciation: loo’nass’ah) and like most other Pagan festivals this too is essentially related to harvesting and Nature. This is the day which is believed to be the first day of the harvest after which the reaping season would start. This is the day which the Pagans believe that the year gets divided into four parts, each perhaps representing a season of the year. Keeping tab of seasonal changes have always been essential for Pagan and Celtic celebrations.
- September 23. Mabon (Autumn Equinox) – This is the time of the year when the Earth again experiences a period of equal nights and days. After this day the nights become longer than the days. This event in its essence marks the final harvesting season for the year because after this the fertile summer months would have to fade out making way for the harsh cold winter months when it is time for Mother Nature to go to hibernation. This is the time when the Pagan people reflect upon their activities of the months gone by and also on the achievements. This is also the time to make plans for the next season. People also take the opportunity to thank Lord for the bountiful harvest that would meet their needs during the winter months.
- October 31, Samhain (Halloween) – Literally meaning the Feast of the Dead, this is one of the most important festivals as observed by the Pagan community. This is the time of the year when the Pagan community believes that the wall that exists between the mortal world and the world beyond gets thinnest. They believe that during this time of the year departed souls revisit the mortal world to mingle with the living beings. However, there is no trace of morbidity about this festival for Pagans have always accepted Death as a natural course of life. Holy Fire is lit around which the community gathers. People dress up in costumes in keeping with the spirit of the festival. Dancing and feasting follows. This is also the time when the new born babies are welcomed by the members of the community.
- December 21, Yule (Winter Solstice) – Yule is one of the most ancient Pagan winter festivals. This festival too is based on the fact that the ancient society was mainly dependent on hunting or agriculture as forms of their livelihood. Because they had to spend most of their out of doors it was naturally very important for them to keep in pace with the Seasonal Changes and the ways of Nature. They always put the Sun at the highest point of reverence for they believed that it is the Sun that is responsible for the change that they experience in the Wheel of Nature. In fact the word Yule if etymologically seen has been derived from the world Houl which signifies Wheel. It is the time of the year when the people believe that the Wheels of Nature are turned upside down. To uphold this spirit it is often the custom among people to cross dress – according to this ritual men dress and women while women dress as men. A celebratory bon fire is lit out of logs. it is considered auspicious to keep the fire alive for twelve days.