How do Witches celebrate the “New Year”? With most of the world eagerly awaiting the arrival of 2019 on the calendar date of January 1, there are other perspectives that are quietly observed as well. This is not the Witches’ New Year. It is nothing but the turning of a page in the datebook of the mundane world, numbered according to a planner that few of us follow.
So when, exactly, is the Witches New Year, one may ask, if not on January 1?
This requires some explanation. Witches generally consider Samhain (October 31) as the end of our year. Others celebrate Winter Solstice (on or around December 21) as a festival of rebirth. Imbolc comes on February 1, marking the first signs of Winter’s end. And on Spring Equinox (on or around March 21) the Sun begins a new cycle as it enters Aries, the first sign of the Zodiac, another new beginning. All four of these dates can be observed as a “new year,” and there is no right or wrong.
The reason is simply because our perspective of dates and times is based on the cycle of seasons and events that occur in the natural world. Very rarely, in the natural world, do things change overnight. One season blends gradually into the next. Even though Winter Solstice is popularly known as The First Day of Winter, there is rarely a sudden onset of ice and snow on that day. Same applies to Spring Equinox, after which date there may still be snow on the emerging crocuses.
There are also remnants of ancient agricultural practices mingled in with the Witches’ seemingly unconventional calendar. Samhain was the time for slaughtering animals to provide a good store of food for the colder months. The first frost took whatever crops were not yet harvested. People gathered in after a season of outdoor living. It was the betweening-time, when the Otherworld seemed closer at hand. It is the season when death and endings are everywhere around us.
One of the most common sacred symbols shared by Witches is the Circle, or the Wheel of the Year. Circles and Wheels have no sharp angles, rather, things flow into each other. Every ending is a beginning and the celebration goes on and on.
Winter Solstice, the longest night, signals the beginning of returning sunlight to the land, another observance of rebirth or “new year” so to speak. Witches are not the only ones who indulge in feasting and merriment at this time. They are joined across the globe by anyone else who lights candles in hopes of driving the darkness away or welcoming brighter days ahead. It is no coincidence that there are worldwide festivals of light at this time.
At Imbolc, the longer days and return of sunshine finally becomes noticeable as hibernating animals begin to awaken, ice-bound rivers start to thaw, and the first shoots of new vegetation rise from the earth. These are foreshadowings of what happens on Spring Equinox, when the promises of seeds buried at Samhain start a new cycle.
The New Year, for we Witches, is a continuous celebration for almost half the year. It doesn’t happen overnight because, as everyone knows, Nature rarely abides by the strict, linear rules of calendar time. She dances to the heartbeat of Her own world – and so should we, constantly seeking to match our steps to the rhythms and rhymes of Earth, Sun, Moon and Stars.