When to celebrate?

This question came up on one of the Druid groups I’m on – when do you celebrate festivals? Does it have to be on the day? Is the nearest weekend good enough? Or something else?

As I see it, the calendar has been mangled a few times, so that dates, the 31st October for example, may be more about the tradition of a number than an exact time of year. Solstices and equinoxes present their own challenges too. When, exactly, do they happen? When is that moment of balance at the equinox? And at a solstice, are you celebrating the night, or the day? The dawn? Midday? There’s plenty of choices and clearly no one right answer. If you can’t celebrate the exact moment, does it make sense to celebrate the gist of the changing times at the nearest convenient date? I think, if it works for you, then the answer to that one is ‘yes’ and if it feels wrong, the answer is ‘no’.

What are we celebrating, with the four non-solar festivals that turn up in so many calendars? Are we celebrating a specific date, or the state of the seasons? If it’s the latter… seasons are not fixed and often don’t tie in to dates. With Druids in the southern hemisphere these days as well, the dates and the seasons are in mirror image of each other, and that calls for some proper consideration.

I think there’s a lot to be said for figuring out what seasonal cues in your immediate environment you associate with traditional festivals. For a start, that takes you out of standard format and into thinking about your locality, and what is meaningful to you. The arrival and departure of migrant bids might be a consideration here. The appearance of seasonal flowers or leaves on trees might be another. The shedding of leaves, the first snow, or other things may present themselves.

If you’re living somewhere that doesn’t have four seasons, why not consider what you do have, and make up your own ritual calendar to reflect it? You may feel that nature as it exists around you is more resonant than sticking to dates that relate to another place entirely. And then again, the ancestral connection might be more important. There are no right answers, but, think about what works for you and why, don’t just take a ‘one size fits all’ ritual calendar and adapt your own feelings to fit it, that’s about the only wrong way there is!

There are still green leaves on the trees here, so for me, it is not yet Samhain.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “When to celebrate?

  • Nia Ceridwyn

    Reblogged this on This Witch's Heart and commented:
    This is a topic my heart and I have been discussing recently, the idea of when the holidays of our spiritual paths fall, and how to reconcile that with the calendars of our more mundane lives. It’s something I would like to post more about in the near future, because I think it bears a lot of thought. My immediate thinking is that I still tend to celebrate the four equinoxes and solstices, along with the cross-quarter days, however they fall. I also am leaning towards following the lunar cycles, and celebrating at least the new and full moons of each lunar cycle.
    To this end, I think it would be in my interest to return to my study of Waverly Fitzgerald’s yearly planner, which is designed to put me in tune with the natural cycles of the year. I think that would be ideal for me, and my current situation certainly allows for that.

  • Alex Jones

    Winter Solstice is one where I get excited about as it marks the turning of the dark and cold, which I dislike.

  • Avelliana

    I do entirely agree. Next spring, my body feels the arrival of the season with all my senses long before the official date, but i didn’t listen. And when came the date of Beltaine, it was not the same, what i would have shared before wasn’t there anymore.

  • Avelliana

    sorry, i am french and i don’t have read again my text, full of errors ! it is not next spring, but past obviously !

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