9 Ancient Celtic Holidays to Celebrate This Year

Growing up in a Celtic family, I always said we got bonus holidays. My family loved to celebrate and be together. In addition to the ancient Celtic holidays listed below, any time family came to visit was a holiday to itself.

My mom would start each ancient Celtic holiday with a special breakfast or hand us a little gift as we headed off to school. My mom wanted to honor the day but also honor our Celtic heritage.

There are so many ways to celebrate Celtic traditions and your Celtic heritage throughout the year. The Celtic Croft has all your items to take part in the yearly festivals, from clothes to accessories to home decorations!

First, an Ancient Celtic Fest Overview

World History explains The Wheel of the Year is the basis for the Celtic festivals. The eight Sabbats (religious festivals) include four sun festivals (Winter and Summer Solstice, Spring and Fall Equinox) and four seasonal festivals.  

Celtic culture views life as circular instead of linear, birth, life, death, rebirth, particularly seasonal changes. 

1. February 1st: St. Brigid’s Day (Imbolc)

St. Brigid's cross and wheel of ancient Celtic holidays with a lit candle and flowers

Most people are familiar with St. Patrick, but St. Brigid, the most famous female saint, is as important of a figure to the Celtic people. As the first native saint and Abbess of Ireland’s first convent, St. Brigid’s Day signifies the start of spring.

The Brigid Day Cross, also known as Bogha Bride or Red Cross, is generally handmade with straw and reeds found outside. The day is marked by preparing the home with cleaning, making crosses, feasting, and visiting St. Brigid’s. The early spring flowers start to pop around this time. 

2. March 17th: St. Patrick’s Day 

The Irish flag flying at a St. Patrick's day celebration. st. Patrick's Day is an ancient Celtic holiday still celebrated today.

St. Patrick’s Day, the most familiar Celtic holiday, is celebrated worldwide on March 17th. As a holy day, many Catholics start the day with mass. Then they move on to the parades, parties, singing, dancing, and food! St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is credited with spreading Christianity throughout Ireland.

Americans falsely think St. Patrick’s Day is not celebrated in Ireland, but we can assure you it is! The Irish colors found on the flag are prominently displayed throughout the county, with a mix of church and shenanigans throughout the day!

Some people consider St. Patrick’s Day as the Spring Equinox since it is so close to the calendar.

3. March 20th Spring Equinox Ostara

An Ostara altar. Ostara is an ancient celtic holiday

At the Spring Equinox, the daylight and nighttime hours are even (the same as the Fall Equinox). It is time to prepare for the new year, growth, and rebirth.

4. May 1st: May Day (Beltane)

A Beltane fire

Beltane, one of the fire festivals, celebrates the renewal of life and welcomes spring in full force! Nature and her elements are honored through bonfires, flowers, herbs, dance, and play.

May 1st is the midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Beltane not only marks the change in session but also embraces it. Out with old (smudging, bonfires) and in comes the new (goals, romance).  

5. June 21st: Summer Solstice (Midsummer)

A summer solstice wreath on a woman's head

The Celts mark the longest day of the year as they do with many other festivals: with bonfires, songs, and dance. The summer solstice is a time to rejoice. Celts honor the light and the power of the sun, earth, and her treasures of flowers, greenery, and herbs. The long day of light empowers the banishment of any lingering evil spirits.

The Celts dedicate the summer solstice to the goddess of the sun. The goddess name varies by region, Etain being a common variation.

6. August 1st: Lughnasa

Lughnasa altar. Lughnasa is an ancient Celtic holiday

Are you starting to see a theme on Celtic festivals? The changing of seasons corresponds to many of their celebrations. August 1st signifies the beginning of the harvest season and is named so. It honors Lug, the Celtic god of the sun, a fierce warrior, and ruler of thunderstorms, as explained in The Celtic Journey.

The beginning of harvest is also handfasting time. Handfasting is a trial marriage that lasts a year. And again, the Celts celebrate by gathering around bonfires, singing, and dancing.

7. September 21st: Autumn/Fall Equinox

fall equinox cornucopia

The autumnal equinox, where the day and night are equal lengths, commemorates the passage between dark and light. The equinox also signifies the time to prepare for winter: gathering, processing, and stocking the harvest for the upcoming winter.

As Irish Central points out, the cornucopia, most associated with fall, exemplifies the hope for plentiful winter.

8. October 31st to November 1st: Samhain (Halloween)

Dried Feather Grass and Flowers with Brass Bowl of Seeds and Quartz on Black Table for Samhain

If you are an Outlander fan, you will remember that Claire first travels through the stones during Samhain. Pagans believe that, during this time of year, the barriers between the physical and mystic world are thin, thus allowing travel to and fro.

And as a gesture of peace between the two worlds, offerings of food may be left outside the doors of homes during Samhain. For pre-Christians in ancient times, Samhain was the most important cross-quarter festival.

World History explains that Oíche Shamhna is Halloween and Lá na Marbh is the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day. Samhain is the transition to the dark, with less daylight during this time of year.

9. December 21st: Winter Solstice

A snowy scene depicting winter solstice. Winter solstice is an ancient celtic holiday

As Summer Solstice celebrates the longest day of the year, Winter Solstice celebrates the shortest day of the year. Locally in Minnesota, there is a group known as the 21sters, who mark December 21st as the end of winter, as the daylight gets longer from that day on.

Ireland Before You Die highlights watching the sunrise on December 21st at Newgrange, Co. Meath, Ireland, to experience the seemingly magical lightning of the ancient burial site. For 17 minutes, the sun’s rays beam through the gaps at the burial spot. 

Ancient Celtic Holidays: The Circle of Life

Pagan holiday wheel

From ancient times to now, Celts have celebrated life in all its forms. Life is ongoing and growing but never-ending. The eight festivals on the Wheel of Time each play to the same theme; many modern holidays’ origins reside in Celtic history.

We at the Celtic Croft are committed to authentic and historically accurate items to be worn, displayed, or gifted. Our roots, in the tree of life, started many years ago, with the Celtic people, and we still celebrate that today!

ancient Celtic holidays, beltane, Celtic holidays, Lughnasa, Samhain, St. Brigid's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice
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