Celtic Festivals and their celebration by other cultures


Here are a list of some of the Celtic Festivals and how they are celebrated by other cultures, ‘faiths’ and ‘religions’.


Samhain – 30 October/1 & 2 November

Halloween/All Souls Day – Christian festival when the dead walk and witches fly, to be chased away for another year by the saints.

Allantide in Cornwall, also known as Allan Day Kalan Gwav or Nos Kalan Gwav.  A pre-Christian festival now linked to St Allen or St Arlan, a little-known Cornish saint.  However, the name is thought to stem from the same source at Hollantide (Wales and Isle of Man) and Halloween.  Apples were given to children the night before (Allan Night), to place under their pillows, and girls hoped to dream of their future husband with an apple beneath their pillow.

The Coptic Church celebrates this day as St Abaidas Day.  Also St Quentin’s Day (patron of Bombadiers, chaplains, locksmiths, porters, tailors and surgeons); and St Wolfgang’s Day (patron of carpenters and wood carvers).

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates saints Stachys, Amplias, Urban, Narcissus, Apelles and Aristobulus of the Seventy Disciples.

Slovenia celebrates this day as Reformation Day.  It is a public holiday, in honour of the Reformation, which contributed profoundly to its cultural development.  It is also a public holiday in several German states, and in Chile.


Yule – 21 December

Christmas – Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus – 25th December.

Hannukah – Jewish Festival of Lights.  8-day festival starting on the 25th day of the Jewish month Kislev.

HumanLight day (23 December) – Humanist winter holiday.  A modern invention, and a celebration of a Humanist’s idea of a good future – a positive approach to the new year, with an emphasis on reason, compassion and hope.

Kwanzaa or Kwaanza – African-American celebration 26 December to 1 January.  Created in 1966, and featuring candle-lighting and libation pouring, culminating in feasting and gift-giving.  Name derives from a Swahili phrase meaning ‘first fruits’.  Seven letters in the name symbolise the Seven Principles (ob Blackness) – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, co-operative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.  Households decorated with colourful cloth, fruits and artwork, women wear the Uwole, and children are included in ceremonies to honour and respect the ancestors.


Imbolc – 1/2 February

Originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid.  Cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  Day of fire and purification.  Lighting of candles and fires to celebrate the return of warmth and increasing power of the sun over coming months.  Traditionally the day of the onset of lactation in ewes prior to lambing.

St Brigid’s Day – Christian – patron saint of Ireland.  Feast day in Catholic church.  1st day of spring in Ireland.  Feast Day of Astina (mother of Abhai the General), a Christian saint and martyr, in Syrian church.  Known as Candlemas in Europe, which is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple – the 4th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary and one of the 12 great feasts of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  Also the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin and the Meeting of the Lord.  Marks the end of the Epiphany season.


Ostara – 21 March

Easter – Christian.  Celebrated on deferent dates each year, but basically equal to the Celtic festival, with coloured eggs etc.  Celebrated as the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, 3 days after his crucifixion.

Persian New Year’s Day – Iran.  Day when Jamshid, mythical ruler of Persia, ascended to the throne – commemorated with a 2-week festival recalling the story of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.
Zoroastrian Holiday
End of the 19-day Sunrise-to-sunset fast – Baha’i
First day of the first month – Baha’i
Vernal Equinox Day – Japanese official holiday, spent visiting family graves and holding family renunions
Chunfen – China
Independence Day – Namibia
Harmony Day – Australia
Truant’s Day – Poland
Human Rights Day – South Africa
Benita Juarez Day – Mexican Fiesta Patria
Held in honour of Minerva – Rome
Mother’s Day – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen
St Nicholas of Flue – Christian 
Sham El Nessim – ancient Egyptian holiday, traceable back to 2700 BC.  Still a public holiday in Egypt.  Now held on Easter Monday.
Passover – Jewish festival on 1st full moon after the Vernal Equinox.


Beltaine – 1 May

1st of May, 1st of May – flowers strive to bloom today.

Celebrated by Pagans, Roman Catholics (St Walpurga’s Day), and Satanics (founding of the Church of Satan in 1966).

Catholic – St Valborg, Walpurgis, Wealdburg or Valderburger founded the Catholic convent of Heidenheim in Wurtemburg.  Renowned for speaking out against witchcraft and sorcery.

Norse – Enclosure of the Fallen, commemorating Odin’s sacrifice to obtain the runes.  Weak boundary between living and dead.  Bonfires lit to keep away the dead, followed by the return of light and sun on May Day.

Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht) or Hexennacht (Witches’ Night) in Germany – night of 30 April/1 May.  Witches hold a large celebration on the Blocksberg and await the arrival of Spring.  Lighting of Beltane fires in northern coastal areas, while the rest of Germany lights ‘Easter fires’ at the appropriate time.  In southern areas, kids play pranks on this night.  Adolf Hitler and his staff committed suicide on this night.

Volbriöö in Estonia – influenced by Germanic culture, originally the night for witches to meet and gather.  Now mostly a student’s excuse for getting drunk, with 1 May being ‘hangover day’.  Some people still dress up at witches and wander the streets in carnival mood.

Vapunaatto, Valborgsmässoafton in Finland – carnival day and often used for political agitation.  1st May picnics often start early, with some running on from the previous night’s festivities.

Valborgsmässoafton or Valborg in Sweden – public holiday.  Main tradition is to light bonfires.  Some collect greenery at twilight to decorate houses, and are paid in eggs.


Litha – 21 June

National Aboriginal Day in Canada (not officially recognised).

National Day of Greenland

World Humanist Day (Secular Humanists) – holiday celebrated annually around the world on June 21st. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), the day is a way of spreading awareness of Humanism as a philosophical life stance and means to effect change in the world. It is also seen as a time for Humanists to gather socially and promote the positive values of Humanism.  Simple gathering, perhaps a picnic or dinner, though some develop elaborate rituals highlighting the solstice and the light of knowledge which brings us out of darkness.

St Alban’s Day – Christian.  Also St Aloysius Gonzaga (patron saint of youth), St Engelmond, and St Martin of Tongeren.


Lammas (Lughnasadh) – 1 August

Armed Forces Day – Angola
Emancipation Day – Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica
Benin – National Day
Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Liberation Army – China
Parents’ Day – Democratic Republic of Congo
Fiesta Day – Nicaragua
Liberation of Haile Selassie from slavery – Rastafarianism
National Day – Switzerland
Feast of Kamal (Perfection) – Baha’i
Army’s Day – Lebanon
Yorkshire Day – Yorkshire
World Scout Day
Colorado statehood day – USA
National Farming & Agriculture Day – UK

Abgar V of Edessa – Christian saint who wrote to Jesus asking for a miracle healing.  Jesus declined to go to him, but promised to send one of his disciples after he had ascended.

Procession of the Cross, or Feast of the Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Cross – Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Christian.  Carrying the cross through the streets to ask for God’s blessing, and relief from sickness.  First of 3 August ‘Feasts of the Saviour’ – the others are 6 and 16 August.  One of 7 Feasts of the Cross.

Saint Days – Roman Catholic – St Alphonso Maria de’ Ligori, St Aethelwold of Winchester, St Eusebius, St Exuperius, St Felix, and St Peter Julian Eymard.


Mabon – 21 September

Yom Kippur – Jewish – Day of Atonement – 22 September (in 2007).  Day spent in prayer, asking for forgiveness, and promising to behave better in future.

International Day of Peace – United Nations

Nativity of the Theotokus (title of Mary, mother of Jesus) – Russia

Independence Day  – Malta, Belize and Armenia

8th day of the Eleusinian Mysteries – Greece – beginning of the feast Pannychis.  Initiation ceremonies for the cult of Demeter and Persephone, based at Eleusis in ancient Greece.  Kept secret, as initiation would unite the with the gods, and bring rewards and divine power in the afterlife.

St Matthew the Evangelist day – Christian.