“Holidays are necessary celebrations of human collectiveness. It reminds us we’re a part of society.”
― Kailin Gow
Magickal practitioners know about the standard eight observances on the Wheel of the Year (namely Yule, Candlemas, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Fall Equinox and Hallows). But what happens when life makes it impossible to celebrate one or more of these events? We could just simply honor the day either a little early or late, which is perfectly fine. But there is another alternative. You can look for a festival or celebration on a different date with a similar theme that comes from various global traditions.
Every Day is a Holiday: Pagan Celebrations
Truth be told, it only takes a quick Google search to realize that there is one or several festivals happening on every day of the year. Some are whimsical like “ice cream day.” Other celebrations are more venerative. Either way, humans are always honoring important events in some way or another. Birth, Coming of Age, Weddings and Death are among the most common. These moments in time become a rhythm of traditions that unite families, groups or whole communities. This is one of the reasons that holidays are so important – they provide continuity. People find comfort in their familiarity even amidst life’s daily chaos.
The Ritual of Holidays, Celebrations and Festivals
Repeated celebrations around the globe often have ritualistic overtones. Every phrase, song, motion, decoration, etc. builds on all the energy created from previous festivities. The residual vibrations bring with them associations and emotions — happiness, family, love, hope. In other words, there are whole strands of holiday power dancing in the Universe just waiting for our attention.
Now there is an important caveat here (you knew there would be). Some consider this approach as cultural appropriation. This is a difficult issue and one that should be addressed. If you feel for any reason your use of a method, symbol, etc. would cause harm to another, it’s best to avoid it. Balancing the latter statement, there is the aspect of cultural diversity that provides us with the opportunity to glean insights to other peoples. Humankind’s spiritual development depends heavily on our ability to understand one another.
12 Steps for Adapting a Holiday
How exactly do we respectfully adapt a holiday?” Begin with the basics. Does the holiday reflect a theme that you would like to apply spiritually in your life? Can you find personally meaningful ways of adapting to the festival? Does the timing work both metaphysically and mundanely for you? If you answer yes, excellent!
Next walk through these steps:
- Look into the culture from which the festival originates and why that date is meaningful.
Look at HOW the original celebrants celebrate the occasion. If you happen to know someone that follows this custom, ask questions.
- In what season does the celebration take place and does that timing impact the meaning of the festival (both in the original setting and for you)
- Does the day of the week, hour, month or moon phase play a role that you want to integrate or emphasize? Note that some celebrations take place over several days giving you more flexibility concerning timing.
- What colors suit the celebration? For example, most festivals honoring Deities use colors sacred to that Being (as well as symbols). Going one step further, what do those colors mean magically or personally?
- What elements of the event really speak to your heart and soul? Make a note of these so you can adjust them to your ritual, spell, invocations or blessings.
- What decorating scheme surrounds the holiday? Decorations are a great way to set a mood.
- How are the festivities started? Does the event wait for sun up or sun down, for example? Can you bring this into your ritual in a meaningful way?
- What activities take place during the event? Is there a parade, dancing, singing, drumming, libations? Anyone of these could prove useful to your final program. By the way, a parade could equate to the movement of attendees into a circle while music plays.
- Holiday food: Many magickal practitioners are Kitchen Witches who love new flavor profiles. Look at the edibles the celebration customarily includes before, during or after the event. Add some of those to your post-ritual feast. Contrarily, some events use fasting as a form of respect and type of offering. If that is physically safe for members to do, it’s worth considering since fasting helps purify the body.
- Fun! A lot of global holidays have a moment for revelry, particularly for the children (or us “adult” children). Joy is powerful and contagious.
- Closing the event: How does the celebration end? What of those constructs seem fitting for your adaptation?
Now I know some of you are thinking, whew that’s a lot of work! Yes, it is. But think back to the first time you wrote your own ritual from beginning to end. Hard work is good magic. This is an educational process that supports personal and spiritual growth. Do it the right way from the get-go. Then, if you wish, make that ritual a part of your annual commemorations. Begin a new tradition! Make the magic happen.
New Magic Rituals for Groups
For those of you who regularly meet with a group, you can make this-this a project for everyone. Each person tackles one or two elements for the ritual (like decorations and spells, or libations and quarter calls). When complete, everyone comes together and shares their discoveries. Regarding suggested ritual elements, make 3×5 cards and put them in a tentative order that makes sense. You can always edit later.
Also after completing this magical homework and collaboration ask each person what they thought of the activity. Did they get any positive insights out of it that could help them in daily life, be it mundanely or spiritually? After you try enacting your observance, what does everyone think of the resulting and would they try something like this again?
You will probably be very happy with the feedback you get. Just as celebrating one of your Sabbats, creating a new tradition together brings the coven into greater harmony and singleness of mind. If the celebration works well, consider adding it to your communal book of shadows so you can share it with newcomers, or enjoy it as a group again next year.
Happy magical celebrations!