Our modern holidays are variations of past celebrations that are formed to fit our modern day belief. Many look into the past from the little we think we know and try to convince themselves that the days they celebrate with meaning – Christmas (Saturnalia) or Yule, Halloween (Sowen), Easter (Ostara) or Imbolic, Valentines Day (Lupercalia), etc, etc – are only revamped versions of more ancient celebrations with completely different meanings than we give them today. Where as the ancients may have seen Saturnalia/Christmas as a time to worship nature in relation to astronomical alignments, christians see it as their mythical sun-god’s birthday. This association and relationship was built by emperors and the church who wanted to mainly merge belief systems together.
One of the most common themes you can observe through most holidays is that of the feast. Romans would feast during the winter months celebrating Saturn-alia, Saturn the god of agriculture whom would bring back the planet to life after the death it suffers in the winter; celts would feast during Sowen to celebrate the New Year on November 1st, modern Halloween, and many celebrate Easter as the resurrection of the ‘Christ’ while Easter, coming from the goddess name Eostre, is a day of rebirth, which in fact is why Jesus is said to have been resurrected during this time. The three days ceremony is also important but is more rooted in the ancient mystery schools and secret initiation creaminess Jesus or Joshua was a part of.
The year is broken into sections as part of a wheel, like the Zodiac – animal wheel. As the wheel turns and we experience a changing of the four seasons from Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Each of these four parts of the wheel are then broken down further into additional celebrations which split the months between the Equinoxes, where the sun crosses the celestial equator and the length of day and night become close to equal, and Solstices, where the Sun is at it’s greatest distance from the celestial equator. These include Yule (feast on the Winter Solstice) (), Imbolic (the beginning of Spring), Ostara (Spring Equinox), Beltaine (Halfway point between the spring equinox & Summer Solstice) ( of ), Litha (Mid-Point of Summer or the Summer Solstice), Lammas (festival and beginning of the wheat harvest where the first bread would be made), Mabon (Autumnal equinox), Samhain (End of the Harvest season and the beginning of the death of the planet during the winter months).
During the time of our ancestors when everyday people had to farm their own food and a time when grocery stores were not on every corner, scarcity was common for food and fear was likely common, and therefore many superstitions sat in. When there was a bountiful harvest it led to large feasts and celebrations to a giving of ”thanks.”
The first harvest at Plymouth Rock was completed in 1621. It was during this time that Governor William Bradford (1590-1657) dedicated this as a special day of prayers and giving Thanks. That fall, Plymouth colonists’ and the local Wampanoag Indian tribe feasted for three days to celebrate their first “successful harvest.” Some say that the harvest celebration lasted longer, with colonists going from house to house throughout the colony within a weeklong celebration of the harvest.