The Wheel of the Year begins with Samhain on 1 May, Old Hallows Eve, which is celebrated past midnight
to welcome in the New Year. It is the final harvest for the year and time for feasting. Pumpkins are part of the final harvest and traditionally were used for decoration for the festival. At Samhain, the veil between the worlds is very thin, and we celebrate at this time of saying goodbye to the year past, the lives that have passed before us. It is therefore also known as the Festival of Death. Modern Christianity transformed the ancient pagan celebration of Samhain into what is known today as Halloween (Northern Hemisphere 31 October).
Between June 20 and June 23, depending on the lunar phase for the particular year, we celebrate Yule, the Winter Solstice. Here we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun as pass through the shortest day and longest night of the year, and thus are now moving towards the end of Winter. Traditionally evergreen wreaths were hung, and a pine tree was decorated.
On 1 August, we celebrate Imbolc, the Festival of Lights. We light candles to encourage the rebirth of the Sun to bring on the approaching Spring. Thus the Festival is also referred to as Candlemas. Modern Christianity combined Yule and Candlemas to create what is known today as Christmas.
The Spring Equinox reaches us between 20 and 23 September, known as Ostara. We celebrate new life bursting out from Winter’s slumber. Flowers, eggs and baby animals all represented the theme of new life and were used for traditional decoration. This has become Easter.
On 31 October we celebrate Beltane, the Great Festival of Life. The earth is at the height of fertility and it is a time for great merry-making (and baby-making), Spring has truly sprung and there is a great abundance and renewal of life.
Between 20 and 23 December we reach the Summer Solstice, Litha. The Sun (God) is at the height of its power and gold, yellow and orange colours decorate the festivities, along with plenty of Summer flowers. Traditionally at this time a May Pole was erected with long flowing ribbons attached to the top of the pole. Festival goers took great delight in a fun dance around the May Pole each clutching one of the ribbons to wind the pole.
On 2 February we reach Lammas and this is the celebration of the first harvest for the year. Grains, squash and breads load the tables.
The Autumn Equinox, between 20 and 23 March is celebrated as Mabon. The Sun is seen to be waning now as the height of his power begins to fade. The second harvest was traditionally done now.
Finally, the wheel would return to Samhain and the last harvest for the year, once again celebrating the completion of the cycle gone and the start of the new cycle.