Holidays are a big part of life. Some people like to dismiss the importance of holidays as being frivolous or unnecessary, but I disagree! Holidays are a time for us to connect with our loved ones, to celebrate and express ourselves. Holiday celebrations are as innate to human beings as walking on two feet. Every culture in the world has holidays and celebrations that they return to year after year that brings them together and gives them a sense of cultural identity and connectedness.
Witches often struggle with the holidays. We can feel separated from our culture when the holiday season comes around because we have chosen new beliefs, new practices, and new spiritual identities that don’t align with those held by the greater culture and community that we live within. This can cause a huge sense of disconnection when our families and friends are going on with the celebrations that we have participated in for our entire lives, but we now feel like outsiders who have no claim to those celebrations. It doesn’t have to be this way though! If we focus on the holidays as a time to come together with our community, to connect, and to celebrate and experience the joy of simply being a human, holidays become much easier. Today, we’re going to talk about exactly how you can approach holidays so that they are a time of celebration and connection for you too.
How The Wheel Of The Year Falls Short
Many witches follow the wheel of the year, the eight yearly holidays celebrating the turning of the seasons, however, not all of us live in regions where these holidays line up with the actual changing of the seasons. For example, someone living in New England may find that the fall celebrations are perfectly in alignment with the local weather and agriculture while someone like myself who lives in Texas would find that many of those traditional fall holidays happen during the time of the year when it still very much feels like summer. This is one of the major pitfalls of following the wheel of the year. If we are not conscious and careful, it’s entirely possible to disconnect from the reality of our environment in our attempts to celebrate these holidays at the “right” time.
It’s also important to note here that while some places do have seasons that line up very well with the wheel of the year, many parts of the world do not have the same seasons. Sure, we may call these seasons the same thing throughout the world, but in each location that season means something very different. In Arizona, summer is monsoon season. This is not a time of long happy days and harvests, it’s a time of intense heat and sweltering humidity. It’s a time where the people who live in that area do not go outside much, and many of them choose to leave the state entirely if they can do so because of the inhospitable conditions. By contrast, the winters in Arizona are gorgeous. They get beautiful sunny days with low humidity and moderate temperatures in the 60s and 70s, plants go into full bloom, and cities and towns come alive with people. Trying to follow something like the traditional wheel of the year in a place like Arizona is simply asking yourself to disconnect entirely from your home environment. Any witch looking to feel connected to nature in their magical practice must take the time to attune themselves to their environment.
For some people, this will require almost no effort. As I said, there are places like New England where the wheel of the year and the actual seasons that we experience align almost perfectly. If you live in one of these places, that’s awesome! Go ahead and use the wheel of the year to stay in touch with the seasonal changes. If, however, you find that you live in a place where the seasons are very different from those in the wheel of the year, that’s okay! It’s much better to be energetically aware and attuned to your home than it is to be following the dates somebody else set arbitrarily as holidays.
For those of you living in places that do not align with the wheel of the year, I would highly suggest that you take the time to map out the real seasons where you live and adjust your holiday schedule accordingly. Obviously, for some holidays, nothing needs to change. The solstices and equinoxes are not based on the changing of our seasons, but rather on the movements of celestial bodies. This means that whether you live in Canada or Texas, the equinoxes and solstices happen at pretty much the same time. For the other four seasonal holidays, however, you can either choose to move those holidays to a more appropriate date for yourself and your environment or you can choose to omit them entirely and create new holidays around the environmental reality and seasonal shifts that you experience. If you have witchy friends or family, this is an excellent activity to do together! Developing holidays around things like local fruit harvests, local seasonal changes, local planting days, first rains or first snows, or anything else that you feel helps you to become more grounded in your local environment can be incredibly fun and empowering.
Create Your Own Holidays
This can sound like a slightly ridiculous endeavor, especially to those of us who live in the western world and are used to holidays being large, national events. This does not have to be the only way that we define a holiday though. We all have smaller, personal holidays that we celebrate every year! Birthdays and anniversaries can happen on any day of the year and are still widely recognized as important and meaningful holidays for individuals. Creating these new traditions takes time, and it takes community, but it can be such a rewarding experience. A holiday is, in essence, simply a way for communities to come together, celebrate, and connect around a common belief, interest, or event.
If you have a community, no matter how small, and you have the desire to come together and celebrate around a common event or moment in time, then you can make up any witchy holiday that you want! If you’re a solitary witch and you do not have any other witches to celebrate with, you might be surprised how willing your non-witchy friends and family are to bond with you over celebrating something that you find meaningful and important. Even if you don’t tell them that this has magical or spiritual significance to you, setting up a picnic to celebrate the solstice, a planting party to celebrate the first planting of spring, or full moon dinner parties simply to gather with friends and family can help to create cohesion and bonding in your communities without the necessity of shared spiritual beliefs.
Celebrate Combination Holidays
You’ll also notice that a lot of the holidays celebrated in the wheel of the year line up with holidays in the greater culture. Christmas and Yule happened within just a few days of each other. Halloween and Samhain are directly related! It’s perfectly acceptable for you to celebrate combination holidays where you celebrate both the cultural holidays that you grew up with and the newer holidays that you’ve adopted with your new spiritual practice. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Find ways to incorporate practices from each. If your family celebrates one holiday and you want to celebrate your witchier holiday, find ways to incorporate practices from these pagan holidays into your family’s traditional celebration. Again, they don’t even really need to know where these new practices are coming from. If it adds significance to the day and it helps you connect with the people around you, go for it!
If the overtly religious tone of some holidays bothers you, don’t bother with them. You can still celebrate these with your family but think of these days as something that you’re doing to make those family members happy as a way of connecting with them. They’re not your holiday. You can celebrate your holidays separately on a different day. Gather together whatever friends you have that share this need for a separate holiday and create something for yourselves! In many cities, you can find groups of witches gathering together to celebrate holidays, even though they may not know each other simply because it helps them to feel connected to their community on this holiday. Sometimes these gatherings even turn into full-blown festivals when people continue to come back year after year.
It’s All About Connection!
Celebrations are about safety, belonging, and connection. The magic we do during the holidays is done to facilitate and grow our sense of belonging and connection in our homes and communities. This is one of the most important parts of life on this planet. We are designed on a biological level to connect and while it can, at times, be incredibly difficult to do this and while it can seem like society is often trying to tear us apart from the people we love and care about, the magic we do in our domestic lives serves the purpose of helping to solidify and fortify these connections. Whether that be our connections to ourselves, our connections to our pets, our connections to our spouses and our children, or connections to our community at large in our towns and cities, the magic that we do at the domestic level is designed to protect, to foster, and to grow the sense of community that creates the sense of home in the first place.
If you’re reading this and you’re feeling a deep sense of disconnection from your home, your family, or your community, it’s okay. Relationships are one of the hardest parts of life and it truly does take two to make any relationship work, whether it’s family, a romantic relationship, a friendship, or simply a neighbor. Find places and people to put your energy that truly value who you are. As someone who grew up witchy and weird in a small southern town, I know that this can be difficult. But finding ways to incorporate yourself in your community in ways that feel good to you and that involve you in your local environment can add so much to your magical and spiritual life.
When I was younger, I did a lot of volunteering for local land restoration projects. We planted prairie grasses and tore out invasive species to help rehabilitate land that had been damaged by human activity. In these kinds of volunteering projects, I found not only connection with the land and the spirits who inhabited it but also with people who shared my values. None of these people were witches to my knowledge, but our shared love of our local environment created a sense of community that had been missing in my life until that point. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and explore what your neighborhood and community have to offer!
Your holidays can be whatever you need them to be. Focus on creating connection within your communities and you cannot go wrong. It doesn’t matter if your holidays don’t look like someone else’s holidays or if nobody has ever heard of your holiday before. If it helps you to connect with your community, to spend time with the people you love, and to celebrate the joy of simply being alive and having people who love you, then you’re doing it right!