It is believed that our ancestors, the ancient Irish, had four major festivals, as well as a number of smaller festivals.
Christian missionaries ‘Christianised’ many of these pagan festivals, and so many of our modern festivals have ancient counterparts, unbeknownst to many of us. Christianity adopted this festival and restyled it as the Feast of Brigid.
Many people find these ancient festivals and rituals fascinating, but most of us know little about them. Not many know that Halloween is thought to have begun in County Meath, for example.
Halloween, Christmas, St Stephen’s day; all owe their heritage to older customs and practices. We know it as the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, but in reality, the date of his birth remains unknown.
St Brigid’s day heralds the first day of spring, and takes place on the first of February every year.
Samhain marked the annual divide between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter).Christmas owes its roots to the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which was a pagan festival which was celebrated from December 17-25 each year.This custom was altered and absorbed into Christmas, and this allowed early Christians to gradually erase these old pagan holidays.2018 seasons— Vernal equinox: March 20, Summer solstice: June 21, Autumnal equinox: September 23, Winter solstice: December 21, 2018 cross-quarter dates— February 4, May 6, August 7, November 7, Moon phases— New: May 15, First quarter: May 22, Full: May 29, Third quarter: June 6, New: June 13, (Coordinated Universal Time) The traditional Celtic year was quartered by the solar events with which we are familiar—the solstices (“sun-standing”) and the equinoxes (“equal-night”)—and then it was quartered again at the midpoints between the solar events, the “cross-quarter days.” The result was that the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, was midsummer’s day, not the first day of summer as we observe it.The same goes for the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the middle of winter in the old system.Yule was observed by Germanic people and marked the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.Today, Yuletide refers to the Christmas period though it is still observed by some modern-day pagans.Lú (or Lugh) was a powerful pagan god, who was associated with the summer.This was a special festival held in order to welcome the growth of the corn and the beginning of the harvest season, which was of huge significance to the Celtic people.Bealtaine also lives on as the Irish word for the month of May.Bealtaine was also associated with fire, and it is believed that the Druids used to do create two large fires in a field on Bealtaine and drive their cattle between the fires to protect them from disease. Similarly to Bealtaine, Lúnasa is the Irish word for the month of August.