What is the Wheel of the Year?

Friday, March 27, 2020

You may think you’ve never heard of the Wheel of the Year before but I’m sure you’re familiar with certain seasonal festivals like Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Samhain, and the word Yule. Because so many people these days are embracing their earthy spirituality I figured it would be fun to explain the Wheel of the Year, what it is, how it’s used, and how you can celebrate it or recognize celebrations of it.

The wheel of the year is basically the yearly cycle of seasonal festivals. It includes solstices and equinoxes (longest night, longest day, and equal day and night), and is most commonly observed by Pagans, aka various religions that are inspired by the pre-Christian, pre-Islamic, and pre-Judaic belief systems of Europe and other countries. Much of it is Earth based and you’ll see that in my explanation of each observance. Many of the observances actually coincide with modern celebrations from other religions, whether you know it or not.

Winter Solstice\Yule

Yule is usually observed around December 21st or 22nd. Since the late Stone Age, it’s been recognized as a big turning point in the yearly cycle. It is the mid winter time where the night is longer than the day but starting the very next day, the days will start getting longer minute by minute. In many traditions this was a celebration of the rebirth of the solar god, who will bring fertility to crops with the warm sunshine. Yule is often celebrated with feasting, giving gifts, and midwinter festivities like hanging evergreens and decorating logs. You may have heard of the burning of the Yule Log. Remember everything with the Wheel of the Year is Earth Based and traditionally deals with survival like celebrating how the harvest time will come back soon enough now that the sun god is in charge again.


Imbolc is generally falls around February 1st or 2nd. It marks the first stirring of spring. It’s a time for spring cleaning and purifying as you anticipate new life arriving to the Earth. Soon enough the grass will become greener, buds will appear on plants, and you can start prepping your garden.

Spring Equinox/Ostara

Ostara falls around March 20thThe time where the day time and night time are equal once again. This is a time celebrated for the balance briefly between light and dark but with extra celebration since light is on the rise. It’s a time for new beginnings and finally coming out of the cold dreary days of Winter. Often times it’s celebrated with pastel colors, painted eggs, and flowers. Sound familiar, right?


Beltane is also referred to as May Day and is normally on April 30th or May 1st. This is a time of flowers, bright colors, and celebrating the power of life, the greening of the Earth, and youth. The Roman goddess of flowers, Flora is also celebrated.

Summer Solstice/Litha

Litha is usually around June 21-22 and is the turning point where summer reaches it’s height. It’s the longest daylight of the year. It’s a time to celebrate the beauty of summer and the warm weather still with the windy breezes.


Lammas is the first of 3 harvest festivals and falls around July 31st or August 1st. It’s generally celebrated by baking bread and giving thanks for the seasons first harvest. Most people that observe Lammas will gather together and feast and enjoy the haul from their garden.

Fall Solstice/Mabon

Mabon is usually September 2nd-3rd and signifies the second harvest. It’s a time to give thanks and to celebrate the fact that the days and nights are equally long on this day before minute by minute starting the next day, darkness gets longer and longer.


Samhain (pronounced like Sow En) takes place on Halloween. It’s a time when the veil between the living and dead is believed to be at it’s thinnest so it’s an important time to pay tribute to your ancestors and loved ones that have passed on. People often leave “offerings” around, attend festivals, and pray or try to communicate to those they’ve lost, asking them for strength in the coming year. It’s a festival of darkness as it’s now the final harvest so the gardens are done.

I hope you’ve learned a bit so that when you hear some of these observances spoken in the future, you’ll know what they mean!

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