There are eight major and minor Sabbats in the Wiccan year. They are based on the cycles of nature and of the harvests. The new year, the ancient Celtic year beings in October as opposed to January.
SAMHAIN - (pronounced So-ween or So-wen or Sav-en or here in the US, Sam-hane) October 31 - This is the end of the old year and the beginning of the next. Harvests are complete and it is a time to remember those who have passed that year. The God dies and the nights are shorter and growing cold. This Sabbat has been greatly corrupted by modern culture. It is not a time of evil, however, it is felt that the veils between worlds is thinner and this is the time when it is easiest to communicate with those who have left us.
YULE - The winter Solstice - on or about Dec 21/22 0 The first day of winter - The longest night of the year. The sun, the male aspect of the deity, is starting his return after this night. Many modern day Christmas decorations have their origin on the Pagan Yule festivities. The Norse "Yuletide lasts for twelve days - hence the Twelve Days of Christmas.
IMBOLC (Imbolg)- February 2 - Christianized as Candlemas -This word translates to in the Belly. It means with child. Lights are used to show the Goddess the way back to us and to encourage. The pregnant Goddess will soon give birth to spring.
OSTARA - The Spring/Vernal Equinox - on or about March 21/22 - The day and night are equal. Ostara is the Norse Goddess of Fertility. Spring lambs start to be dropped. Early flowers and trees begin to bud. Depending on where you live, crocuses may already be in flower. Ostara's symbols are the rabbit and the egg. Both signs of fertility. These are two symbols adopted by other religions as well to represent rebirth and fertility.
BELTANE - May Day - May 1 - This is the time of mating. The union of the God and the Goddess. The May Pole represents the male and females elements - the phallic pole and the soft ribbons of femininity. Children conceived at this time are supposed to be blessed by the gods.
LITHA - the Summer Solstice - Midsummer - June 22/23 - The sun is going away an the reign of darkness is beginning. The darkness is not evil but rather a time of rest and preparation for winter. Just as the light is not good - it is a period of awakening and work. This is also the time when things are in full bloom.
LAMMAS - August 1 - the first harvest. The nights are growing longer and bread making begins. This is also a time of sacrifice to the god to ensure a successful harvest - sacrifice grain, a loaf of homemade bread, fruits, etc.
MABON -Autumn Equinox - September 21/22 - we say good night to the Sun and prepare for the hunt. Harvests are coming to an end and winter preparations begin in earnest. The Goddess appears as the Mother with her bounty.
And again to Samhain and the Wheel of the Year begins again...
There is much tradition behind the Sabbats. Not all Pagan traditions will follow the same Sabbats. These are the Eight one associated with Wicca. For a great list of various traditions from many Pagan faiths, get a copy of the Llewellyn Magical Almanac. Click here for ordering info if you cannot find it at your local book store. I consider this almanac a must have!
Now a great project for the older kids. Study various Sabbats and Holidays and find the similarities. It is amazing how many Old traditions found there way into the New.