Forgotten Festivals and Celebrations to add Joy to your Year
After posting this Instagram post about the Celtic spring festival of Imbolc I received a message from a follower requesting that I write a blog post all about old festivals that are no longer celebrated by most people in the UK. I thought it was such an interesting idea and I’m all for celebrating the little joys in life.
For this post I’ll be covering the “Wheel of the Year” which is the annual cycle of season celebrations originating from the Middle Ages. Each festival celebrates the changing seasons and I think adopting one or two of them into modern life is such a lovely way to connect with nature. By being more in tune with nature and appreciating the seasons I imagine we would all become more calm and mindful.
Midwinter or Yule - 22nd December - 2nd Jan
Yule is probably the most well known celebration. Just before our modern Christmas celebrations Yule includes many of the traditions we’re all used to celebrating. Organising a sumptuous feast featuring traditional rich winter foods and bringing sprigs and wreaths of evergreen like ivy, holly, spruce and pine into the home all add to the cosy winter feeling. A very large yule log for the fire would also be hauled into the hearth with great ceremony!
Imbolc - 2nd of February
After the fun of Christmas has died down we have to face January which can feel like the longest and darkest month of the year. That’s why I love the idea of Imbolc which lands at the beginning of February. This festival is all about looking forward to spring, traditions include lighting lots of candles, baking seed cakes and hanging rowan by your door. This year I invited some friends round for cake and candle making - it was lovely!
Spring Equinox - 20th March
March equinox is celebrated to mark the arrival of Spring, leaves and buds on the tries, baby animals and agriculture are all part of this festival. Many people decorate eggs and give them as gifts as a sign of protection and new life. Seeds also play a large role as a symbol of potential so why not try cooking with them or planting new some herbs and flowers? The Spring equinox is also a perfect time to host a lunch with sprouting bulbs as table decorations.
Beltane April 30th - May 1st
Beltane represents the peak of springtime and this festival is all about celebrating the warmth of the sun. Beltane also symbolises love and union so it’s the perfect time of year to get married! Traditions include the familiar maypole where dancing around a birch pole with ribbons celebrates life and the union of the earth and sky.
Summer Solstice - June 21st
On June the 21st this year the sun will be at its highest so it’s time to celebrate all things summer and recognise that the days will begin to get shorter and shorter. Traditionally a large bonfire is lit and many people would stay up all night to enjoy watching the sun come up. Other Solstice symbols include oak trees, mistletoe and honey. Midsummer full moon is known as the 'Honey Moon' so why not bring some oak branches into your home and enjoy some mead!
Lughnasadh - 1st August
During high summer it’s time to celebrate the first harvest also known as “Loaf-Mass” symbolising the importance of grain. This festival is all about the waning of the sun, a shift towards slowing down and reflection. Traditions include cutting the grain, baking bread and making a grain mother or dolly to symbolise next year’s crop.
Autumn Equinox - September 21st-22nd
The amount of sunlight during spring and autumn equinox are equal and so this time of year will be in balance with the spring. Because of this, the main theme is balance between light and dark, male and female. The autumn equinox is the time of the fruit harvest so traditionally people will celebrate with a large feast and a cornucopia of fruit on the table. It’s also the time to finish any odd jobs before you feel like hibernating in the winter!
Samhain aka Halloween - October 31st
Also know as “all souls night” now is the time to think about your ancestors, light lots of candles and reflect. A lovely tradition to take park in is to scatter seeds in memory of loved ones, the seeds you plant will grow in the spring and summer in memory of your friends and family. Common symbols of this festival include pumpkins, cauldrons and acorns.
I love researching these old traditions and celebrations, It’s clear to see where things like Christmas and Halloween come from. I hope you enjoyed learning about these pagan festivals and have fun lighting candles and baking your seed cakes!
Hi I'm Nancy!
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed the post. Make sure to drop by regularly for interior, style and travel inspiration as well as stories from my from daily life.