By Brittany Mercer
Many holidays, especially Christian holidays, are based off of Wiccan holidays. Though many people believe they are original and centered around Jesus and the Christian God, this is not the case. Wiccan holidays are the base from which these holidays stem. They are not evil: they merely celebrate nature as a whole.
Christmas is based off of Yule, which is celebrated on the Winter Solstice, December 20 through the 23, depending on that year’s Gregorian Calendar. Our ancestors celebrated the rebirth of the Oak King, also known as the Sun King or the Giver of Life. This warmed the frozen Earth. From now on, the days will become longer. Children were led from house to house with gifts of clove-spiked apples and oranges, lain in baskets made of evergreen boughs and flour dusted wheat-stalks. Apples and oranges represented the sun, the boughs of the evergreen were a symbol of immortality (think Christmas trees), the wheat-stalks symbolized the harvest and the flour was an accomplishment of light, life and triumph. This is where the mistletoe was first hung, but not to kiss under. The mistletoe was an invitation for Nature Sprites to come and stay during the season, representing the seed of the Divine.
Imbolc is celebrated on the eve of the first of February, into the day of the second. Imbolc means “in the belly of the Mother,” because that is where the seeds are kept and are now beginning to stir, for Spring is approaching. Another name is Oimelc, which means “milk of ewes.” Since most herd animals have given birth, or are close to giving birth, their wombs are big with offspring and the milk of life is readying itself to flow. This holiday pertains to the Celtic Fire Goddess, Brigit, patron of healing, midwifery, poetry and smithcraft. This is the festival of the Maiden. Until March 21, it is in season to begin the growth and renewal of our gardens. Christians have adopted Feb. 1 as St. Brigit’s day, Feb. 2 as Candlemas and has condensed the Maiden’s Festival into one day, Feb. 14, renamed St. Valentine’s Day.
Ostara, the Spring Equinox, is Lady Day. The Sun God born anew on Yule is now ready to celebrate a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the Maiden Goddess, who becomes pregnant and is readying to bear the Sun God again. Maiden Goddess will become the Great mother. Ostara is the next Full Moon after March 21, and is sacred to Eostre, the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (we get the word estrogen from her), whose symbol contained the Egg and Rabbit. (Easter bunny!)
Beltane begins the eve of April 30, this is the other holiday in which the veil between worlds lays thin and can be opened. May Pole dancing was focused on younger married couples to tie their relationship together. Older married couples, longer than a year and a day, were allowed to remove the wedding gifts (along with the restrictions implied) received for this one night. This practice is rarely observed in modern society.
Litha, the Summer Solstice, is honestly just the opposite of Yule. This is the longest day of the year: light and life are everywhere. The Sun God has reached his peak of greatest strength. This Midsummer Night’s Eve is special to those who believe in Faeries.
Lammas, July 31, is the time to celebrate the first harvest of the year. Here we recognize that the heat and sweat of the summer will soon come to an end. Spring plants are withering and drop their seeds, so next year we will have crops again. The Sun God is losing his strength and with each passing day, the sun drifts further south, shortening our days.
Mabon, the second harvest and last holiday of the Wiccan year, is celebrated on the Autumn Equinox; Sept. 21. During the Autumn Equinox we see that the day and night are divided equally. We now pay our respects to the impending darkness. Say “thank you” to the waning sunlight, as we begin to store our crops for the coming winter. We are celebrating the aging Goddess; she is no longer an attracting being. She is passing from Mother to Crone. The Sun God is preparing for his death in order to be reborn anew.
Now is the time to dress up in all of your elegance and celebrate in a lavish manner. Drawing close to family, we are winding down our year to close at Samhain. It is time to finish all old business, and ready ourselves for a time of rest, relaxation and reflection.
Many people celebrate their holidays wholeheartily and assume that they know the religion behind it, its origins and everything that it is based off of. However, this is false. Many don’t realize how much Christianity is based off of the Wiccan Religion. Nor do they know the exact history of their holidays.
Even if you do not agree with it, it is good to understand other religions. Furthermore, if you are going to celebrate a holiday, you need to understand everything about it, embrace its past and understand its roots.