The Celtic Festivals

Imbolc

A cross-quarter day (between Yule and Ostara) and fire festival, Imbolc is the celebration of early Spring and Awakening occurring around the beginning of February. This is a time of clearing out the old and bringing in the new. We can concentrate our thoughts and wishes to what the coming year will bring.

Ostara

The Spring Equinox festival of Promise occurs around the 21st-22nd March, the first day of Spring when day and night are of equal length and we emerge from the last days of Winter. All around us we see growth, young flowers and new-born animals. Everything is bursting with life. The Equinoxes balance light and  dark and are often represented by spirals, labyrinths and Celtic crosses.  
 

 Beltane

Bel-tene, a 'goodly fire' is the Feast of Life celebrated at the beginning of May. A time of merry making and fun, we are full of expectation for the coming of Summer. This is a cross-quarter day (between Ostara and Litha) and a fire festival of union, fertility and creative life force.


Litha

The sun reaches a peak in its cycle and gives us Summer Solstice, the longest day and shortest night, occurring around the 20th -23rd June. This is the festival of Midsummer and Joy, bestowing abundance and love, celebrating achieving goals and fulfilling our wishes. From now the days become a little shorter but we store this energy in preparation for the seasons to follow.

Lammas

A cross-quarter day (between Litha and Mabon) and the festival of Transformation, early harvest, first fruits and gathering. Usually celebrated in the first few days in August, we can almost sense the coming of Autumn. 'Auger' is an ancient word meaning a person with the gift of foretelling events through signs and omens, also known as an 'increaser'. This is a time of feasting and dancing.

Mabon

Occurring around 20th-23rd September, this is the Autumn Equinox and another festival of balance where day and night are of equal length. This is the main Harvest festival as we prepare for the coming of Winter. The days will now get shorter and the wind will blow a little colder. In nature we can see signs and changes taking place; a busy time for animals filling their stores and leaves changing colour and falling.

Samhain

Pronounced 'Sow-en' this is the Celtic New Year celebrating Summer's end and falls at the end of October, beginning of November. A cross-quarter day (between Mabon and Yule) and when veil between this realm and the world of the unseen is at its thinnest. We use this festival to remember and honour our ancestors, a custom that has become present day Halloween.

Yule

Winter Solstice - Midwinter gives us the shortest day and longest night. The sun rises a little higher each day from now and we celebrate this by the lighting of the Yule log and candles, feasting with family and friends and decorating evergreen trees. 'Yule' means wheel and is often depicted by a wreath: the evergreens represent everlasting life.

© All photos by Margo Benson

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