Celebrated on the Winter Solstice, usually around December 20-22
Yule is the longest night of the year. It is the time where the Mother is in Labor with the new God. The Crone stands as midwife, watching over the Mother as the night wears on. Then, when all have reached their limits, the newly born God, the Sun, emerges.
Yule is a shared holiday in scope with many other religions. It marks the longest night of the year and the return of longer days, and gives hope for the Spring to come. We typically celebrate with all the usual trappings: trees, decorations, greens, ritual, and food. Some groups stay up all night and greet the dawn with singing, drumming, or just watching the sun rise. Generally, the ritual focuses on the rebirth of the Sun and making a wish for the coming spring.
Celebrated on February 2
This is the time of the awakening. The days are lengthening, and the ground isn't so frozen or as wet. Crocuses are blooming and everyone has the urge to start doing instead of staying cooped up inside. It is time to make ready for the new.
Imbolg (pronounced IMm-og) has two aspects to it: First, it is Brigid's holiday, and as such it is a Bardic holiday. Singing, dancing, storytelling, drumming, poetry, and other performing arts can be done in Her honor. Second, it is also time to make ready for the new, so physical and ritual cleaning is also done at this time. This can also include the mental cobwebs, so rituals of cleansing are also appropriate.
Celebrated on the Spring Equinox, usually around March 20-22
It is time to finally come out and play! The Maiden and the Young God take off their shoes and squish their toes in the mud. The birds and other animals come out from their winter homes looking for food and mates. The air is warmer, and things start to move again. Soon, it will be time to plant.
Ostara is marked by the copius amounts of bunnies and chicks that show up on the altar. But it is also the time where we ask for what we would like to harvest in the Fall. Rituals using seeds or eggs are common, to symbolized planting of the seeds of new life and new growth, physically and spiritually.
Celebrated on May 1
Beltaine (also Beltane or Bealtaine), takes its name from the traditional Irish May Day celebration. The UK and Ireland have many customs associated with May Day, which have coalesced, along with other lore, into the neopagan Beltaine holiday. Though at a surface level rituals such as dancing around a May Pole are innocuous, their symbolism is unequivocally sexual.
Where certain other holidays celebrate fertility, Beltaine is very much a celebration of sex, per se. Sex and sexuality are held highly sacred by most neopagan paths, and ours is no exception. Though, at first sight, it might appear that this requires literal adoption of magick based upon gendered polarity, this is unnecessary because the divine orgasm, in and of itself a transcendental experience, is not predicated upon heterosexual sex.
Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, usually around June 20-22
This is the longest day of the year, and the celebration of the Sun God in his prime. It is also when the Goddess starts to show from the rites of Beltane. The light is bright, the days are warm, but with it comes the knowledge that the Harvest will soon be here.
Where Beltane celebrated the sexual, passionate side of fertility, Litha (pronounced Lith-ah) celebrates growth of the seeds that were sown. The plants grow tall, towards the sun. They are not ripe, yet, but we know that the growth at Midsummer will make for a bountiful Harvest. Rituals are typically held outside, during the day, if possible, and can be for inspiriation, love, protection, and divination for the coming Harvest.
Lammas (or Lughnasad)
Celebrated on August 1
Lammas (pronounced Lahm-as) or Lughnasad (pronounced Loon-ah-sah) is the first Harvest Festival, and celebrates the first bounties of the Harvest. What you have sown in the spring is now coming ripe and bearing fruit. The Sun God grows old, and realizes that his time of Sacrifice is coming.
Lammas, being the first of the Harvest holidays, is a time to celebrate life. Feasts (pot luck, bbq, etc) are common to this holiday, as is giving libations to the Earth in thanks for a bountiful crop, especially bread and beer. Traditionally, wheat weavings and corn dollies are made at this time to protect the home for the fall and winter.
Celebrated on the Autumnal Equinox, usually around September 20-22
The Harvest is pretty much done, and now it's time to celebrate the wealth of the Harvest together. Mabon (pronounced May-bon) is also known at the Witches' Thanksgiving. We are giving thanks for a bountiful harvest, not only of food, but of ourselves.
We usually celebrate this time of year with a traditional Thanksgiving feast with all our family and friends. (You know, turkey, potatoes, gravy, and all the rest!) We give thanks for what has come into our lives, and for those who have been there to share it with us.
Celebrated on October 31
Samhain (pronounced Sa-when) is the last of the Harvest festivals. The last of the fruit of Summer has been brought in. The God and Goddess have grown old, and the Goddess has watched the God wither and die. The days are growing shorter, and the viels between this world and the next has grown thin. It is a time to rest, to reflect on the year that has passed.
It is also the time to remember those who have passed on during the year, and those who have already crossed to the Summer Isles. We take this journey in our ritual knowing that there is communion, blessing, and healing in talking with the Ancestors. It is a difficult journey, but we know that death is a transition between this world and the next, not the end of life.
This is the Witch's New Year, and a time to reflect on what has been done, and what we would like to do in the coming year. We again feast together, leaving a plate for the Ancestors to feast with us. It may be a somber ritual, but there is hope as well, for without death, there would be no life. Without death, there would not be room for something new. Without death, we do not learn.