The Christian Holidays with Pagan Origins The 8 Pagan Holidays

Christian Holidays with Pagan Origins — The 8 Pagan Holidays

There are eight Christian holidays with pagan origins.  Find out what you are celebrating when you take part in these festivals.  It may not be what you expect.

The 8 Pagan Holidays We Celebrate

Many traditional holidays are benchmarks that correlate with the seasons and celestial alignments.  Ancient cultures divided the year into eight festivals.  The Wheel of the year is a practical way of measuring the days of the year.  It is based on the annual movement of the Sun as it crosses the sky.  It contains the two Solstices and Equinox and the midpoints between them.   These 8 points move year-to-year depending on the actual celestial alignment of the Sun:

1) Christmas — Yule (Dec 21-25)
2) St. Brigid’s Day Imbolc (Feb 1-2)
3) Easter — Ostara (Mar 20-23 )
4) St. Walpurgis Night — Beltane (Apr 30, May 1)
5) John the Baptist Day — Litha (June 20-22)
6) Lammas Day — Lughnasadh (Aug 1)
7) Michaelmas — Mabon (Sept 20-23).
8) All Hallows Eve (Halloween) — Samhain (Oct 31)

Solstices are where the Sun rises to its highest and lowest points.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun’s highest arc occurs around June 20-21, and the Sun is at its lowest around December 21-22.

There are two Equinox each year.  These unique alignments occur when the Sun crosses the celestial equator, and the day and night are approximately equal.  These celestial events occur each year on Sept 22 and Mar 20.  The symbol for this event is the cross and circle.  You’ll find this symbol on ancient timekeeping systems and even early maps.

Christian Holidays with Pagan Origins

We’ll start with the most popular celebration and work around the calendar.

Christmas Day — Yule the Winter Solstice

Dec 25 is Yule is Norse, for the wheel is close to the Winter Solstice.  It’s the  4th Quarter day which becomes the Christian holiday Christmas.  Yule is the Winter Solstice, marking the day with the least sunshine.  The only way to go is up.  So, Dec 25 was when many of the dying Gods were born; likewise, it is the Roman festival of Saturn, Saturnalia.

Christmas Rituals

Christmas is one of the 8 pagan holidays with global reach.  St. Nicholas and Krampus are at the heart of the modern evolution of this holiday, although Krampus is not well known in the Americas.  It also includes many of the traditions about the evergreen tree.  (1) The Evergreen is a Germanic symbol for immortality and prosperity.  It is also believed to originate with Druids and is part of Celtic mythology.  Bringing an evergreen tree into the home is a time-honored tradition of immortality.

Krampus is still a part of the Christmas tradition in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, and Slovenia.  Krampus is the counterpart of the Santa Claus tradition.  He’s a horned, anthropomorphic figure, half-goat, half-demon.  His job is to seek out children who misbehave and are disobedient.  Saint Nicholas brings presents to children who obey, and Krampus brings punishment.

The community uses Krampus and Santa as focal points to unify the culture.  The parents use the fairytale to drive good behavior.

Christmas is one of the Christian holidays with pagan origins that has wide acceptance within the Christian paradigm.  Some Churches will have lighted Christmas trees.  However,  other sects reject the pagan links.   Certain sects renounce the observance of Christmas, including the Church of God Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Armstrongite, and the True Jesus Church, to name a few.

Many ancient cultures enshrined this event, building elaborate architectural structures.  The mound structure at Ewgrange, in Ireland, is one of the most intriguing.  Experts tell us this site is older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian Pyramids at Gaza.  At sunrise on the Winter Solstice, sunlight reaches the mound’s inner chamber through a 20-foot passage to illuminate a spiritual symbol.  This alignment lasts only 17 minutes.

St. Brigid’s Day — Imbolc

Feb 2-6 is Imbolc, a Celtic term (pronounced ‘im’olk,’ also known as Oimelc); there is disagreement on the exact translation.  Some say it means ‘in the belly.’ However, others translate it as ‘ewe’s milk’ (oi-melc).  Imbolc was one of the four cornerstones holidays of the Celtic calendar and is one of the four Cross-Quarter Days on the Wheel of the Year.

Cross-Quarter Days are the midpoints between the significant alignments of Equinox and Solstice.  They are essential benchmarks for keeping time and preparing for seasonal changes.

Imbolc marks the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Beltane celebrates the beginning of Summer, Lughnasadh the harvest of the Autumn season, and Samhain celebrates the start of Winter.

Druid Imbolc Ritual

Imbolc refers to the tradition of the Celtic woman, Cailleach — the divine hag.  It’s the time of the year when she gathers her firewood for Winter.  The Christian version of this tradition is Saint Brigid’s Day.

Brigid is a pagan Goddess.  (2) Brigid or Brigit is Welch, Bri meaning renown.  She is the patroness of poetry and knowledge, representing an aspect of the Celtic Minerva.

Before the Roman empire, it was a popular Druid cult and adopted into the Christian faith as St. Brigid.  The main festival centered on a large bonfire.  Virgins attended this twenty-day festival of dancing and sharing knowledge about leechcraft and agriculture.  Many feel this tradition is an example of a Druid Imbolc ritual.  It represents a time when the matriarchy was still equal to Christianity’s patriarchy.  Males were not welcome at this event.

It’s this kind of night festival that troubled the Church.  It was a threat to their authority, done outside of their control.  So began the superstition that females alone at night must be involved in Witchcraft, which became punishable by death.

Easter — Ostara, Ishtar, and the Spring Equinox

Mar 22-25 is the celebration of Easter, the Christan version of the Sumerian God Ishtar or Inanna, the goddess of war and sexual love.  It coincides with the Vernal or Spring Equinox, which welcomes Spring in the northern hemisphere.

Several traditions seem to have combined different aspects of the ancient legends.  Ishtar goes by several names in the Sumerian pantheon, including, Ishhara, Irnini, Inanna, Anunit, Astarte, Atarsamain, Esther, Aster, Apru-dité, and Manat.  She is the Assyro-Babylonian goddess of Sex, War, and Political Power, making her the most important mother goddess of Mesopotamia.  She is sometimes the daughter of the sky god Anu or Nimrod.  However, in some legends, she is his wife.  Other legends say she is the daughter of Nanna, the God of the moon.  Others say she is the daughter of the wind god, Enlil.

Early traditions portray her as the God of the storehouse, so she oversees all the food, dates, wool, meat, and grain; the storehouse gates are a familiar emblem of Ishtar.  She was also the goddess of rain and thunderstorms.

Easter Ritual

Later, the Germanic people, renamed Ishtar, Ostara, performed a miracle.  She turned a bird into a hare, responding by laying colored eggs for her festival.  Ishtar is the source of the tradition where we get the Easter bunny and the Easter egg hunt.

Because this festival occurs at the Spring Equinox, the Christians adopted it into the day when their dying God would rise from the grave.  It is one of the Christian holidays with pagan origins that has the most connections to the mystery religions of the Mediterranean region.  These religions include Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, and Sumerian traditions.

The Christian Easter ritual often re-enacts the crucifixion, rising from the grave and disappearing into the heavens.  It’s a typology for less than 20 dying Gods from these religions.  Some say the zombie legend is the New Testament story of Jesus and other followers raising from the grave.

The Biblical version of Easter has always been a problem.  Until the council of Nicea, there was significant disagreement around the timing of Passover in Matthew.

“Matthew 12 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the Earth. NIV”

This scripture is a sign Jesus was the true Messiah.  Unfortunately, The Church says Jesus was Crucified on Friday, thus the feasts of Good Friday.  If he rose on Sunday, Palm Sunday, that only accounts for two nights and one day.

However, this timing was necessary for the early Church to keep in step with the already established pagan ritual of the Roman Empire.  Easter Sunday is Ishtar Sun Day, which is holy to Nimrod.  It was then renamed after his mother, Semiramis or Ishtar/Astarte.  (3) Easter is one of the Christian holidays with pagan origins back to the mystery religions of Babylon.

“In Miinsterland, these Easter fires are always kindled upon certain definite hills, which are hence known as Easter or Paschal Mountains. The whole community assembles about the fire. The young men and maidens, singing Easter hymns, march round and round the fire till the blaze dies down.

Then the girls jump over the fire in a line, one after the other, each supported by two young men who hold her hands and run beside her. In the twilight, boys with blazing bundles of straw run over the fields to make them fruitful. At Delmenhorst, in Olden- burg, it used to be the custom to cut down two trees, plant them on the ground side by side, and pile twelve tar-barrels against each.

Brushwood was then heaped about the trees, and on the evening of Easter Saturday, the boys, after rushing about with blazing bean-poles in their hands, set fire to the whole. At the end of the ceremony, the urchins tried to blacken each other and the clothes of grown-up people. In the Altmark, it is believed that as far as the blaze of the Easter bonfire is visible, the corn will grow well throughout the year, and no conflagration will break out. At Braunréde, in the Harz Mountains, it was the custom to burn squirrels on the Easter bonfire. In the Altmark, bones were burned in it.” (8)

St. Walpurgis Night — Beltaine

Apr 30 is Walpurgis Night.  May 1 is Beltaine.  Here the Chuch merges the ancient pagan celebration of Beltane with the Christian Saint Walpurga (710 — 777 CE).  Why they chose Saint Walpurga to align with this date is not known.  It is celebrated widely in Europe and Scandinavia.  It is traditional to build a large bonfire.  Beltaine is another Cross-Quarter Day on the Wheel of the Year.

Beltaine Ritual

Germanic folklore talks of witches riding their brooms on this night.  It is called Witches Night (Hexennacht).  So, bonfires were lit to scare them and their evil spirits away.  They would ring church bells and bang pots and pans.  And, of course, they invoke the name of Saint Walpurgis.

Beltane is the first day of May, which celebrates the beginning of Summer for many agricultural societies.  It has a rich history starting with the name.  Beltane is the Celtic derivation of Bel, or Bel’it, the generic name for Ishtar.  (4)

In his book, The Two Babylons, (5) Rev. Alexander Hislop talks about how he observed rituals in Northern England where people still worshiped in groves to Bel or Molock on this date.  He believes it is part of the heritage of the Druid society that is lost.

He recounts a report from the late Lady of Fern Tower in Perthshire, where she observed people gather at an ancient site near her property at Crieff.  They wear Shepard’s cloaks and draw blindfolds from a bonnet; all of them are white except for one, black.

Whoever draws the black blindfold must wear it while jumping over the bonfire set in the center of the circle and pay a forfeit.  Sometimes they suffer horrible burns, but that is part of the ritual.  They say it relates to the worship of Baal, a generic term for God or Bel.  The passing through the fire redeems their soul.  Perhaps the modern-day celebration is a diversion to hide the authentic ceremonies.

John the Baptist Day — Litha, the Summer Solstice

Jun 20 to 21 is the celebration of John the Baptist’s Birthday.  In Northern Europe, the Summer Solstice is Midsummer.

Wiccans and other Neopagan groups call it Litha.  It is one of the 8 pagan holidays, a celebration that honors the fullness of the Sun.  The anthropomorphic being Greenman.  The Celts built bonfires, and people jumped through the flames, similar to the rituals of Beltaine.

Litha Ritual

The mythology of Litha is the battle between the day and the night.  The Oak King represents the day, and Holly King the night.  The Solstice is the day with the most sunlight; each day after that is shorter, so Holly King takes precedence until Yule when the Oak King begins to win.

Litha has a Greek connection to Libthra.  The nightingales sing sweet songs because Libthra is where the Muses buried fragments of Orpheus.  (6)  Some believe this festival also has links to Jewish mysticism as a reference to Lilith.  She is supposedly Adam’s first wife in Rabbinic literature (Rabbi Shabbat 151b).  She is presumed to be mentioned in Biblical Hebrew in Isaiah 34:14 and Implied in Genesis 1:27.  Cults of Lilith existed at least until the 7th Century.

Ancient architects designed structures to align with the Summer Solstice, including the Temple of Amun in Luxor, Egypt, also known as the Temple of Karnak.  The Western Gate of the main structure aligns perfectly with the Summer Solstice at sunset.   The Pyramid of Chichen Itza, The Yucatán Peninsula, perfectly aligns with the summer solstice.  The staircase illuminates what looks like a snake going down the stairs at midday on the Summer Solstice.

The importance of the Summer Solstice alignment is evident in several other major sacred sites, including The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, Peru, and the Mnajdra Temples in Malta.  At Stonehenge in England, the Sun appears behind the Heel Stone at sunrise.  It creates a shadow aligning with two pillar stones with another laid across the top forms a horseshoe that opens toward the Sun.

The Temple of Amen-Ra at Karnak was built with such precision that sunlight would shine through a small opening for two to three minutes on the Summer Solstice.  The appearance of this light allowed Egyptian scholars to calculate the days of the year.

Lammas Day — Lughnasadh

Aug 1 is Lammas Day, halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox.  Lammas is Anglo-Saxon for half-mas or loaf-mass.  Communities with a significant Catholic presence celebrate it as  Loaf Mass Day.  Today many congregations moved this holiday to the Sunday nearest Aug 1.

Lammas Day comes from Lughnasadh or Lughnasa, a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season.  It has roots in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.  Modern Irish call it the Lúnasa festival; in Scottish Gaelic, it is Lùnastal.  Lughnasadh is one of the four primary Gaelic seasonal festivals.

Lammas Day Ritual

In the New Testament Book of Acts 12, Peter is miraculously released from chains by angels the day before Herod sentenced him.   Some parts of the Catholic Church hold the Festival of Peter’s Chains on Aug 1.  However, the Orthodox Church celebrates this festival on Jan 1.

It is an important feast day for those who belong to the Fraternity of St. Peter.  Today, the chains of Saint Peter are in the shrine under the main altar in the San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) basilica in Rome.  The celebration is similar to a high mass with a full ceremonial dress, music, and incense.  A deacon and subdeacon officiate it.

Pagans often celebrate this festival with a harvest feast around a bonfire.  They give blessings back to Mother Earth for the bounty of the harvest.  It’s the first main harvest but not the last for the year.  So, they also ask for good weather for the final harvest of grains.

“In Slavonic countries, also, the midsummer festival is celebrated with similar rites. We have already seen that in Russia on the Eve of St. John, young men and maidens jump over a bonfire in couples carrying a straw effigy of Kupalo in their arms.

In some parts of Russia, an image of Kupalo is burnt or thrown into a stream on St. John’s Night. Again, in some districts of Russia, the young folk wear garlands of flowers and girdles of holy herbs when they spring through the smoke or flames; and sometimes they drive the cattle also through the fire in order to protect the animals against wizards and witches, who are then ravenous after milk.

In Little Russia, a stake is driven into the ground on St. John’s Night, wrapt in straw, and set on fire. As the flames rise, the peasant women throw birchen boughs into them, saying, May my flax be as tall as this bough! In Ruthenia, the bonfires are lighted by a flame procured by the friction of wood. While the elders of the party are engaged in this churning the fire, the rest maintain a respectful silence; but when the flame bursts from the wood, they break forth into joyous songs. As soon as the bonfires are kindled, the young people take hands and leap in pairs through the smoke, if not through the flames; and after that, the cattle in their turn are driven through the fire.” (8)

Michaelmas — Mabon, the Autumn Equinox

Sept 22 to 23 is when we have the astronomical alignment of the Autumn Equinox.  The Sun is perfectly aligned above Earth’s equator, moving north to south.  We know the ancient Celts celebrated the Spring and Fall Equinox because they built the megalith cairns in the hills at Loughcrew, 55 miles North West of Dublin in Ireland.  Of particular note is the Longhcrew Carin Tomb Passage.  It is an alignment that allows the rising Sun to illuminate a Blackstone with astronomical symbols on both events.

We have no record of the celebrations they conducted during Equinox.

Michaelmas is the Catholic feast celebrated on Sunday, the 29.  It is the Church’s replacement for the celebrations of these celestial alignments.  Their festival is mute about the Equinox alignment.

Mabon is the Son of Modron in Celtic mythology.  Mabon was taken from his mother when he was three days old but was returned as if coming back from the dead by his kidnappers, according to Welsh tales of Mabinogion.  (6) Modron’s name appears in the Arthurian Tale of Culhwch & Olwen, where she is the mother of the Celtic God of Youth, Maponos or Mabo.

Mabon Ritual

In his Gaelic Wars (7), Julius Caesar’s comment claims the Druids performed human sacrifices.  But, he never witnessed them, nor has anyone else reported this.  Unfortunately, it has been repeated enough to be accepted as truth by those who seek to disparage the Gaelic traditions.  It is common knowledge that the Celts made a mock sacrifice of a wicker-work figure representing the vegetation spirit.

The Celtic mock sacrifice is reborn in the Burning Man Project each year.  It’s a week-long fall festival celebrated in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.  The movie The Wicker Man is a dramatization of the accusations of Julius Caesar.

All Hallows Eve, Halloween — Samhain

Oct 31 is Halloween, next to Christmas, the most celebrated holiday worldwide.  It is popularized in movies and has become a staple of the advertising industry.  It does not coincide with the shortest day of the year, but it does represent the time when the people need to store the last harvest before the beginning of Winter.

Dressing like demons and decorating with pumpkins is a strategy to scare away or trick unwanted evil spirits.  Thus, we get the refrain, trick or treat.

How did the ancient people know when to celebrate Samhain before the advent of either Gregorian or Julian calendars?  Why, of course, by using the Wheel of the year.

The four main Gaelic holidays are halfway between Solstice and Equinox.  The Celts call them the Cross-Quarter Day.  Here again, we see the symbol for the circle and cross we know as the Celtic Cross.

The four Cross-Quarter Days are Imbolc in February, Beltaine on Apr 30, May 1, timeframe, Lammas on Aug 1, and Samhain on Oct 31.  This method of timekeeping divides the year into 8 nearly equal portions of time.  When combined with the 13 cycles of the moon, you have a calendar rooted in astronomical precision since each moon phase is approximately 28 days.

Nov 1-2 is also a special day known as The Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated primarily in Mexico, but this holiday is evident in other cultures.  The holiday focuses on family gatherings, which focus on remembering and praying for friends and family members who have died.

The celebration takes place on Nov 1 and 2, connecting the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.  They practice various rituals to honor the deceased using skulls and the deceased favorite foods.  The ceremony often includes a precision to the gravesite where they sing and pray.  Sometimes they leave pictures and other possessions that honor their ancestors.

Scholars trace the origins of this holiday to the Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl.  The annual celebration has since spread worldwide.  In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches.

There are festivals and parades in Spain, and people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones.  Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe; similarly, themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

The Samhain Ritual

The rituals for Samhain are certainly older than the remnants we find in the British Isles.  James Hutton gives us a good foundation:

“Hallowe’en developed from the Celtic feast of Samhain (pronounced ‘sow-in’), which marked the end of summer and the beginning of Winter. For the Celts, Samhain was the beginning of the year and the cycle of the seasons. Samhain was a time when the Celts acknowledged the beginning and the ending of all things.

As they looked to nature, they saw the falling of the leaves from the trees, the coming of Winter, and death. It was a time when they turned to their Gods and Goddesses, seeking to understand the turning cycles of life and death. Here, on the threshold of the cold, barren winter months, it was also a time of feasting and celebration as the weakest animals were culled to preserve valuable foodstuffs and provide food to last until the following Spring. For the Celts, Samhain was a time when the gates between this world and the next were open. It was a time of communion with the spirits of the dead, who, like the wild autumnal winds, were free to roam the Earth. At Samhain, the Celts called on the spirits of nature.

We can trace the modern to the Celtic festival of Samhain, but like the other three Galaec festivals dates back further.   Lighting bonfires for security is a common concern, so people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated Nov 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes, and eating treats.” (9)

James George Frazer conducted extensive research in the 19th Century, and his writings are still a rich source of information about the history of this celebration in the British Isles:

“Of the two feasts, Halloween was perhaps of old the more important since the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from it rather than from Beltane. In the Isle of Man, one of the fortresses in which the Celtic language and lore longest held out against the siege of the Saxon invaders, Nov 1, Old Style, has been regarded as New Year’s day down to recent times. Thus Manx mummers used to go round on Hallowe’en (Old Style), singing, in the Manx language, a sort of Hogmanay song which began “To-night is New Year’s Night, Hogunnaa!” In ancient Ireland, a new fire used to be kindled every year on Hallowe’en or the Eve of Samhain, and from this sacred flame, all the fires in Ireland were rekindled. Such a custom points strongly to Samhain or All Saints’ Day (Nov 1-2) as New Year’s Day; since the annual kindling of a new fire takes place most naturally at the beginning of the year, in order that the blessed influence of the fresh fire may last throughout the whole period of twelve months.

Another confirmation of the view that the Celts dated their year from Nov 1 is furnished by the manifold modes of divination which were commonly resorted to by Celtic peoples on Hallowe’en for the purpose of ascertaining their destiny, especially their fortune in the coming year; for when could these devices for prying into the future be more reasonably put in practice than at the beginning of the year? As a season of omens and auguries, Halloween seems to have far surpassed Beltane in the imagination of the Celts, from which we may with some probability infer that they reckoned their year from Hallowe’en rather than Beltane. Another circumstance of great moment omens of life and death have at one time or other been drawn from the position and state of the pebbles on the morning of All Saints’ Day. The custom, thus found among three separate branches of the Celtic stock, probably dates from a period before their dispersion, or at least from a time when alien races had not yet driven home the wedges of separation between them.

The custom of kindling bonfires on Midsummer Day or on Midsummer Eve is widely spread among the Mohammedan peoples of North Africa, particularly in Morocco and Algeria; it is common both to the Berbers and many of the Arabs or Arabic-speaking tribes. In these countries, Midsummer Day (Jun 24) is called Pansara. The fires are lit in the courtyards, at crossroads, in the fields, and sometimes on the threshing floors. Plants which in burning give out thick smoke and an aromatic smell are much sought after for fuel on these occasions; among the plants used for the purpose are giant-fennel, thyme, rue, chervil-seed, camomile, geranium, and penny-royal.” (8)

Christian Holidays with Pagan Origins

It’s no surprise that the rebranding of the ancient traditions would include its festivals and holy days.  Many of these celebrations are money-making opportunities for the Church.  It is interesting to note many of them lead to or through Druidic tradition, for they were some of the last hold-outs against the power of the Church.

What is interesting is the way they skirt around the origins of their rituals and rites.  We go to Catholic work because it is the oldest and most authoritative.  Here are some passages from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909:

The Catholic Encyclopedia Volume Six, Feasts:

“Prototypes and starting -points for the oldest ecclesiastical feasts are the Jewish solemnities of Easter and Pentecost.  Together with the weekly Lord’s Day,  they remained the only universal Christian feasts down to the third century.  Two feasts of Our Lord (Epiphany, Christmas) were added in the fourth century; then came the feasts of the Apostles and martyrs, in particular, provinces; later on also those of some confessors (St. Martin, St. Gregory); in the sixth and seventh centuries feasts of the Blessed Virgin were added.  After the triumph of Christianity, in the fourth and sixth centuries, the sessions of civil courts were prohibited on all feasts, also the games in the circus and theatrical performances, in order to give an opportunity for all to Hear Mass.”

Under the Liturgical Use of Fire:

“Fire is one of the most expressive and most ancient of liturgical symbols. All the creeds of antiquity accorded a prominent place for this element whose mysterious nature and irresistible power frequently caused it to be adored as a God.  The Sun, as the principle of heat and light for the Earth, was regarded as an igneous mass and had its share in this worship.  Christianity adopted this usual belief, but denied the divine title to heat and light, and made them symbols of divinity which enlightens and warms humanity.  The symbols led quite naturally to the liturgical rite by which the Church on the Eve of Easter celebrates the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, of which extinguished and rekindled fire furnishes the expressive image.

In the West, we see the Irish, as early as the sixth Century lighting large fires at nightfall on the Eve of Easter.  The fires were kindled not with brands from other fires but with lenses; they were, therefore, new fires.  An altogether different rite, though of similar meaning, was followed at Rome.  The feast of Candlemas (Feb 2) has a celebrated rite with ancient prayers concerning the emission of liturgical fire and light.  One of them invokes Christ as the true light which enlightenest every man that cometh into the world.” ― The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 6 (1907)

There are no specific entries in the exhaustive reference of the Catholic Encyclopedia regarding any of the pagan feasts.  They do have one admission:

“Symbolism in a greater or lesser degree is essential to every kind of external worship, and we need not shrink from the conclusion that in the matter of baptisms and washings, of genuflection’s and other acts of reverence, of lights and sweet-smelling incense, of flowers and white vestitures, of spiritual unction’s and the imposing of hands, of sacrifice and the rite of the Communion banquet, the Church has borrowed without hesitation from the common stock of significant actions known to all periods and all nations. In such matters as these, Christianity claims no monopoly or originality.” ― The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907)

It is evident to any observer that the entirety of Christianity’s liturgical and doctrinal works are copies of earlier traditions.  The fact is, this is where they derive the symbolism and authority for these practices.

Many people wonder how much simpler our calendar would be if we returned to solar and moon events as a basis.  The twelve-month Gregorian calendar is a remnant of the Church’s control.  Is it time to consider a timekeeping system more aligned with our planet and its closest celestial neighbors?

Which of the 8 pagan holidays is the most important to you?


(1) An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, J.C. Cooper 1987

(2) Joseph Campbell, Occidental Mythology, The Masks of God, 1904

(3) Mystery Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth, Darrell W. Conder 1973.

(4) Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria, Lewis Spence, 1916

(5) The Two Babylons or Papal Worship, Rev. Alexander Hislop, 1943

(6) Bulfinch’s Mythology, Three Volumes, The Age of Fable, Age of Chivalry, and Legends of Charlemagne, 1967

(7) Loeb Classical Library, Gallic Wars Book VI, H.J. Edwards’ Loeb translation, 1917 on The Complete Works of Julius Caesar.

(8) The Golden Bough; a Study in Magic and Religion by Frazer, James George, 1854-1941

(9) The Stations of the Sun: a history of the ritual year in Britain by Hutton, Ronald 1996