Within Wicca and Paganism, there is a strong emphasis upon reverencing Nature and paying attention to the seasonal shift and changes that take place, and for many good reasons. One of which is the profound impact that doing so can have on our daily lives.
Acknowledging the ebb and flow of the energies of the Natural World harmonizes you with those energies, increasing your conscious awareness of your connection with it All (because you’re never truly not connected, it’s just that sometimes we become so distracted, so preoccupied with life that we forget the Here and Now and lose sight of our connection with everything around us.) This creates a sense of stability and balance within our lives; we walk our path with our feet planted a little more firmly.
But a huge part of aligning yourself with Nature through Sabbat celebrations entails celebrating them in a way that is appropriate to where you live. It involves acknowledging the shift that takes place in your environment. This is not to say you shouldn’t acknowledge the traditions and customs that your ancestors and/or particular religious practice have associated with that Sabbat. Quite the contrary, for these acknowledgments strengthen our ties to family and community; they are vital to creating a sense of oneness with those around us and those who have come before us. It is these communal bonds and the shared experiences with Nature that were often the origination for these celebrations in the first place. A major focus of Yule celebrations may be on the return of the Sun and the lengthening days, but isn’t it possible that a major contributing factor in the creation of this holiday was that after being shut in for nearly two months, people were in need of a celebration or else they’d go crazy, that they needed to remind themselves that they were joined together by the bonds of family and community in this struggle to last the Winter, and that through those bonds and their shared sacrifices they would all survive. The returning Sun echoed this promise.
Rather, just as our ancestors’ customs came about from their experiences with the Natural World, so too should our experiences with the Natural World form the basis of our holiday celebrations. For example, a common theme of Imbolc is to celebrate the melting snow. But, if you live somewhere that hasn’t been held hostage by ice and snow for the past few months, it doesn’t really make sense to focus your Sabbat celebration upon this theme.
Another thing that should be a major contributing factor in how one celebrates the Sabbats is to keep in mind what is appropriate for you and your family. An obvious example is that if a Sabbat happens to fall on a Wednesday, but you won’t be able to celebrate until Saturday then by all means, celebrate on Saturday. It’s far better that you have a relaxed and thoughtful celebration than one that is rushed, a little stressful, and crammed into a few spare minutes before leaving for work.
Remember, too, that oftentimes it is the simple gestures that are the most meaningful. An elaborate ritual involving dozens of candles, lasting well into the night followed by a grand feast of roast lamb may seem like a perfect way to celebrate Imbolc, but your young children and vegetarian spouse may better appreciate a simple meal followed by a short candle lit walk about the backyard. This more humble approach may prove better at impressing the meaning behind the Sabbat upon everyone involved, too, especially if we are truly basing our practices upon those of our ancestors. Supplies at this time would have been low with little (if anything) to be gathered outside to supplement. Any feasting would have been modest and consist primarily of what remained of the previous harvest.
Keeping this in mind, the why behind how we celebrate the Sabbats can only ensure that our hearts and minds will be in the right place and that, regardless of how we do end up celebrating the Sabbats, it will be perfect for that holiday and for us.