Wiccan Holidays and their Meanings


Wiccan Holidays and Their Meanings

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Wiccan sabbats, or holidays, are the eight festivals celebrated throughout the year.  Each sabbat represents a spoke in the Wheel of the Year which is the Wiccan yearly cycle. Wiccans talk about the passing of time as the turning of the Wheel. Each sabbat falls on a seasonal marker based on the positions of the moon and sun, and they are used to stay in tune with the Earth’s natural rhythms, reflect on the cycle of life, and express gratitude to the God and Goddess.

Both the Wheel of the Year and each sabbat have pagan roots which create interesting and storied traditions. You can participate in these historic holidays and become at one with the Earth. Sabbats can be celebrated either alone, if you are a solitary practitioner, or with a coven of your fellow witches. The eight sabbats are SamhainOpens in a new tab., YuleOpens in a new tab., ImbolcOpens in a new tab., OstaraOpens in a new tab., BeltaneOpens in a new tab., LithaOpens in a new tab., LammasOpens in a new tab., and MabonOpens in a new tab.. In this article we will explain all of them in depth. Let’s learn about Wiccan holidays and their meanings.

What’s a Wheel of the Year?

The Wheel of the YearOpens in a new tab. is the set of eight major Wiccan holidays that occur approximately every six weeks. The holidays form spokes on the wheel. Each holiday, or sabbat, as they are termed, is a festival which brings awareness of the seasons and rhythms of nature. One turn of the wheel represents a full year, a full journey of the Earth around the sun, and all of the eight festivals. It’s circular to mimic the cyclical nature of the seasons and years passing. It has no beginning or end. It symbolizes the waxing and waning of the sun, the power, death, then rebirth of the God, and the cycle of life in the Goddess’s youth, fertility, motherhood, and respite.

The Wheel of the Year is particularly important these days, because modern life has few ties to the natural world. We use electricity for lights so we don’t need to care much about the sunrise and sunset. Our food is grown by other people in unknown origins, so we don’t have connections to planting and harvest. Produce from tropical regions can be shipped to us in the winter, so we aren’t intimate with seasonal foods. The Wheel of the Year brings us back to our roots.

The dates for the Wheel of the Year festivals are determined by the sun, moon, and tradition, so they may not be the same from one calendar year to the next. Also, celebrations may be postponed or preponed so that they can occur on the weekend.

What’s a Sabbat?

A sabbat is one of the eight Wiccan holidays on the Wheel of the Year. Each one is a time of reflection, introspection, endings, and new beginnings. Each sabbat has an important magickal lesson attached to it, and each one is timed to a specific season and position of the sun.

The sabbats can be celebrated many ways. I try to detail some of the common ways in which they are honored. Celebration can be done either by yourself if you are a solitary practitioner, or with a group or coven. Rituals can vary from meditation at home and giving a small offering by yourself, up to a large coven feast with games and songs. As long as you give gratitude for the Earth’s bounty and acknowledge the ever-changing seasons, you have found meaning in the sabbats. This is the true spirit of Wiccan holidays and their meanings.

What’s the Difference Between Esbats and Sabbats?

Sabbats are the eight holidays marked on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. Most covens meet on the sabbats. However, sometimes covens meet on non-sabbat days, and these are called esbats. Esbats are usually held on full or new moons (although they can be held anytime). They are an occasion to honor the deities and show your gratitude. It is appropriate to hold an esbat as a thank you for recent good fortune in your life.

What are the Eight Wiccan Holidays and their Meanings?

The eight Wiccan holidaysOpens in a new tab. are Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule. Here they are in order of the Julian calendar. However, Samhain is the Witches New Year, so that would technically be the “first” sabbat. However as mentioned, the Wheel of the Year is exactly that so there is no beginning and no end, just a cycle.

SabbatApproximate Date
SamhainOpens in a new tab.November 1
YuleOpens in a new tab.December 21 (date of Winter Solstice)
ImbolcOpens in a new tab.February 1
OstaraOpens in a new tab.March 21 (date of Spring Equinox)
BeltaneOpens in a new tab.May 1
LithaOpens in a new tab.June 21 (date of Summer Solstice)
LammasOpens in a new tab.August 1
MabonOpens in a new tab.September 21 (date of Fall Equinox)

Please read on to learn in-depth about each Wiccan holiday and their meanings, their their rituals, and their symbolism. Refer to the table for a summary of all sabbats and their dates.

Samhain

SamhainOpens in a new tab. is a sabbat that is the third and last harvest festival on the Wheel of the Year and is often the biggest celebration for Wiccans as it is the Witches New Year. During this time of the year, the border between our world and the spirit world is porous and thin. Spirits can easily cross over so we can reach out to them for communication, guidance, and closure. The God has died so we prepare for long, cold nights as we await his rebirth at Yule.

You can celebrate by:

  • Remembering our ancestors and paying respect to the dead. Creating an ancestor altar. Holding cemetery rituals.
  • Holding seances to communicate with the dead, and other necromancy. Candle ceremonies to welcome deceased loved ones into your home.
  • Dinners to remember loved ones either through silent dining, or setting places for departed loved ones to share with them 
  • Honoring the cycle and balance of death and rebirth.
  • Celebrating the last harvest by decorating your altar with gourds, apples, candles, nutmeg, and dark stones.
  • Divination with tarot cards or other tools to reach into the spirit world for guidance and foretelling.

Color Correspondences:

  • Black
  • Orange
  • Purple

Yule

YuleOpens in a new tab. is a sabbat on the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year. It’s the day when the day is shortest and the night is longest. It’s an important holiday when the Great Mother gives birth to the Horned God. She has breathed new light and life into the world and has allowed the God to reincarnate himself. The newborn God is a fresh start and conveys the promise of the return of light and spring. The Goddess also goes to sleep after giving birth. She will sleep until Imbolc, and the yearly cycle will repeat itself again.

You can celebrate by:

  • Burning Yule logs.
  • Decorating your altar with mistletoe, ivy, holly, myrrh, and frankincense. 
  • Decorating your home with candles, lights, bedecked Yule tree (pagan origin of the Christmas tree!), and evergreen wreaths.
  • Performing a candle ceremony to welcome back the sun
  • Celebrating and feasting with your coven.
  • Casting spells for peace and love.
  • Giving gifts and spending joyous time with family and friends.
  • Meditating on resolutions for personal renewal.

Color correspondences:

  • Red
  • Green
  • White
  • Gold
  • Silver

Imbolc

ImbolcOpens in a new tab. is a sabbat that occurs every year around February 1st to celebrate as the first day of spring on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It’s also used by some Wiccans to welcome and honor Brigid, the Celtic goddess of smiths, art, healing, crafts, and poetry, so it’s also termed Brigid’s Day. She is also known as the Triple Goddess. She is just waking up from her wintertime slumber to soon bring light and love to us.

Imbolc is a time for new beginnings and purification, both inside and out, as we celebrate the promise of spring. More light will shine, warmth will come, new life will grow, and new opportunities will present themselves. To celebrate, there are many rituals you can perform:

  • As a time for fresh beginnings, it’s great to clean up all aspects of your physical life. Start by spring cleaning your home, then doing a few cleansing rituals to purify and sanctify your home. After spring cleaning, bless your altar.
  • Cast cleansing spells to clean your energy and purify your mind, heart, and spirit.
  • Perform a candle ritual to light up every room in your house after the sun goes down. The candles symbolize the return of spring after winter’s darkness.
  • Rituals to honor Brigid and ask for her guidance.
  • Perform a winter farewell ritual.
  • To prepare for the light and growth of spring, work on creative inspiration, planning, initiation, 
  • Gathering with friends and family, feasting, and laughing.

Color correspondences:

  • White
  • Red
  • Pink
  • Light Yellow
  • Light Green

Ostara

OstaraOpens in a new tab. is the spring equinox when day and night have equal length. It occurs around March 21 and often coincides with Lent, Easter, and the Christian holy week. It’s a time of joy as winter is long gone and the nighttime shortens and daytime lengthens. While Imbolc is the very start of spring, Ostara is the arrival of spring and the start of the growing season. It’s named for Eostre, a Saxon goddess of the moon.

To celebrate you can:

  • Plant seeds to invoke new life and to reenact the consummation between the Goddess and the God. New life will burst from the ground.
  • Bring greenery into your home.
  • Decorate colored eggs or play egg games. Distribute eggs in a basket which represent a fertile womb.
  • Spend time out in 
  • Set new intentions and start new projects.
  • Observe nature, especially the new signs of spring. Spend time outdoors and note the new appearances of the Goddess that you see.
  • Cast balancing spells analogous to the equal length of darkness and light on this day.

Color correspondences:

  • Pastel pink
  • Pastel yellow
  • Pastel green
  • Pastel blue

Beltane

BeltaneOpens in a new tab. is a sabbat that occurs around May 1 and it is halfway between the spring equinox (Ostara) and summer solstice (Litha). It’s the halfway point between spring and summer. It is a joyful time and represents the marriage and union of the Goddess and God.

It’s also a time of fertility, believed to be the most sexually charged and fertile time of the year as greenery is blooming and the planting cycle is beginning. A common symbol you may recognize of Beltane is the phallic may pole (double meaning intended!).

The courtship and consummation of Goddess and God are celebrated, as the Maiden goddess will become the Mother in nine months.

You can celebrate by: 

  • Dancing around the maypole.
  • Ceremonial bonfires. Jump over flames (safely!) or walk between two bonfires.
  • Wear flower crowns, carrying flower baskets, decorating with ribbons.
  • Romance, love, sensuality, pleasure, and intimacy.Celebrating unions. Making love.
  • Crop blessings for the summer.
  • Fertility rituals and honoring the energy of the sacred feminine. Celebrating female ancestors, family, and friends.
  • Purification spells.

Color correspondences:

  • Red
  • White

Litha

LithaOpens in a new tab. is a sabbat that falls around June 21 on the longest day of the year and also the first day of summer. As a result it’s also called the Summer Solstice as the sun is at its highest position and the darkness is at its shortest. Litha is all about the sun and the abundance it gives at this time of the year. This is a day of perfection. The brightest day and longest day, greenery is at its fullest, warm days are ahead, and life is abundant. We always remember to be grateful for this day however, for the next day and the day after that the sun will start dropping again as autumn and darkness comes closer. You can celebrate by:

  • Building bonfires.
  • Connecting with Mother Earth. Spend time outside in awe and in gratitude of her complexity. Bask in the sun’s heat and power.
  • Playing games, singing, feasting.
  • Charging tools and altar items on this day when the sun is at its most powerful. You can draw down the sun as you would the moon on this day.
  • Conducting faery magick.
  • Praying for bountiful harvests and blessings for all you have been given.
  • Attending handfasting celebrations and blessing the new couples.

Color correspondences:

  • Gold
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Green

Lammas

LammasOpens in a new tab. is a sabbat on August 1 which celebrates the first harvest. It’s the first of three fall harvest festivals. Lammas is a time of hope for an abundant harvest, but also of fear that the yield may not be enough to last comfortably throughout the winter. It’s a time when Wiccans face their inner fears, prepare themselves for possible hard times ahead, and are ready for sacrifice. Deities such as Demeter, Ceres, Lugh, and John Barleycorn are associated with this sabbat.

You can celebrate by:

  • Thanking the Goddess and God for the crops to be harvested. Giving thanks and feeling gratitude.
  • Prayers for abundant food during the upcoming cold and dark months.
  • Feasting with fellow witches or even other covens.
  • Giving offerings of bread and cider to the Goddess and God. Give offerings to wild animals. Decorate your altar with fruits and grains.
  • Honoring the pregnant Goddess and celebrating the cycle of life.
  • Saving seeds at this time for planting during the spring.
  • Drying herbs.

Color correspondences:

  • Deep Golden Yellow
  • Dark Orange
  • Bronze
  • Brown
  • Tan
  • Dark Green

Mabon

MabonOpens in a new tab. is the second equinox sabbat where both day and night are equal– another day of balance. It’s also the second harvest festival. It’s a sad goodbye to the beauty and abundance of summer, and a welcome to the colder and shorter (yet beautiful) days of autumn. The God’s power is waning, to be stored within the seeds that will spring to life in the warmer months. During this phase of the harvest season, the Goddess is also further along in her pregnancy.

You can celebrate by:

  • Honoring ancestors and decorating their graves.
  • Performing a ritual to say goodbye to the sun.
  • Create a cornucopia of fall fruits and vegetables. Adorn your altar with apples, gourds, acorns, pine cones, and ears of corn.
  • Feasting with friends, family, fellow witches, and other covens.
  • Thanksgiving for the harvest’s yield, the abundance of summer, our hard work during the summer months, and lessons learned throughout the year.
  • Spellwork that encourages harmony and balance.
  • Reflecting on the rule of three and that much like planting and harvest, we reap what we sow. Introspection and personal transformation.

Color correspondences:

  • Red
  • Maroon
  • Orange
  • Golden Yellow
  • Brown

Summary of Wiccan Sabbat Correspondences

Samhain

  • Other Names: Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Day of the Dead, All Saints, Hallowmas
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Greater
  • Significance: Witches New Year
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): November 1
  • Colors: Black, orange, purple
  • Activities: Honor and communicate with the dead, divination

Yule

  • Other names: Winter Solstice, Midwinter, Jul, Saturnalia, Christmas
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Lesser
  • Significance: Longest night of the year
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): December 21
  • Colors: Red, Green, White, Gold, Silver
  • Activities: Festive decoration, lights, candles, gift giving, resolutions

Imbolc

  • Other names: Imbolg, Candlemas, Brigid’s Day, Oimelc, sometimes combined with Valentine’s Day
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Greater
  • Significance: End of winter and beginning of spring, rebirth, new beginnings, fertility
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): February 1
  • Colors: White, Red, Pink, Light Yellow, Light Green
  • Activities: Spring cleaning, purification, cleansing, candle rituals

Ostara

  • Other names: Eostar, Eostre, Spring Equinox, Vernal Equinox, Oestarra
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Lesser
  • Significance: Day and night equal, Earth’s fertility, growth, birth, joy, renewal
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): March 21
  • Colors: Pastels like Pink, Yellow, Green, Blue
  • Activities: Planting seeds, gifting eggs

Beltane

  • Other names: May Day, May Eve
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Greater
  • Significance: Halfway between spring and summer, start of planting season
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): May 1
  • Colors: Red, White
  • Activities: Lovemaking, fertility rituals, bonfires

Litha

  • Other names: Summer Solstice, Midsummer
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Lesser
  • Significance: Longest day of the year
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): June 21
  • Colors: Gold, Yellow, Orange, Red, Blue, Green
  • Activities: Connect with nature, use sun’s energy, charging

Lammas

  • Other names: Lughnasadh, Lughnasad
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Greater
  • Significance: First harvest
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): August 1
  • Colors: Rich autumn colors: Deep Golden Yellow, Dark Oranges, Bronze, Browns, Tans, Dark Green
  • Activities: Giving thanks, hope, harvest offerings, honor cycle of life

Mabon

  • Other names: Autumnal Equinox, Michaelmas
  • Greater or Lesser Sabbat: Lesser
  • Significance: Equinox, middle of the harvest
  • Approximate Date (Northern Hemisphere): September 21
  • Colors: Red, Maroon, Orange, Golden Yellow, Brown
  • Activities: Rituals of balance, gratitude, feasting, introspection

Now that you have a great overview of Wiccan holidays and their meanings, read more about sabbats.

What does ‘sabbats’ mean?

Sabbats are festivals that occur 8 times during the calendar year. They each represent one of the eight spokes on the Wheel of the Year and are times of celebrations when covens typically meet.

What are the Wiccan holidays in order?

Samhain, Yule, Imbolc (Imbolg), Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas ( Lughnasadh), and Mabon.

Is the Wheel of the Year Wiccan?

Yes, the Wheel is used in modern-day Wicca. The Wheel has pagan origins from the ancient Celts.

How many Wiccan holidays are there?

There are a total of eight Wiccan holidays, or sabbats.

What are esbats and sabbats?

These are times of celebrations when covens typically meet. Sabbats are the eight festivals that mark the spokes on the Wheel of the Year. Esbats are times outside of sabbats, often at full or new moons.

How many Wiccan sabbats are there?

There are a total of eight Wiccan sabbats, otherwise known as holidays.

What are the 8 Wiccan holidays?

Samhain, Yule, Imbolc (Imbolg), Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas ( Lughnasadh), and Mabon.

Luna Clarke

Luna Clarke is a leading contributor to WiccanGathering.com. She published of a line of Wiccan-themed books, and is known for her open-minded and thorough interpretation of all things Wiccan and magickal. She wants to bring the best information to you so you can live a vibrant witchy life. In her free time, Luna loves to worship her cat while he ignores her.

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