From a simplistic perspective what we are doing is gathering up the cultural wreckage of the ancient pagan sabbats, putting them back where they belong on the year (when they’ve been shifted) and taking away the awkwardly stitched in christian and civil connotations.
One of the main points of all this is to reenforce and extend the practice of teaching childhood beliefs. We teach children to believe in Santa as an exercise in believing in things that aren’t real… really in popular culture santa is not presented as fact but as something it might be beneficial to try to believe in. We say “if you believe in santa he will bring you gifts”, we even say “santa is real because you believe”, even the youngest children know that adults and older children don’t believe… without even realizing it we have been offering children the chance to practice believing in made up things… a skill that as they grow up will come in handy when they get old enough to believe in other made up things that only exist if you believe… things like justice, honor, mercy, duty, loyalty, fairness etc.
Halloween is essentially unchanged from its ancient origins. It is still celebrated on it’s correct day and acknowledges the dead… Our children’s celebration of Halloween will remain unchanged from what most americans are accustomed to. Some sort of marking day that has more meaning for adults should be added.
Yule will be celebrated on December 21st of the civil year and is Xmas as we all know it with the christian trappings removed. All the fun stuff, Santa, the tree, yule log, presents, feast… all stay. We are going to make an effort to base our Yule feasts on pork as a nod to Terry Prachett and Hogswatch(we make lasagna for the vegetarians among us) but individual families and groups are encouraged to codify or invent their own Yule feast traditions according to their tastes and dietary restrictions. We also mark the new year on Yule and will effect changes to our community administration on this day.
Imbolc or Candlemas still exists as Groundhog Day and Valentines day which each carry a trace of the ancient meanings of the febuary 2 midseason holiday. In the heart of the winter a portent telling when winter would end would be celebrated and lovers and suitors would make their feelings known to each other.
Ostara, Easter the spring equinox. The popular christian and secular celebration of easter floats around following the moon in a suspiciously unchristian way… the name remains virtually unchanged from the original rite, the symbols of spring, fertility and rebirth, eggs, chicks, bunnies are all intact and available at your local big box store. Like Yule and Halloween this is a children’s holiday with fantastic creatures to encourage children to believe in. A marking of the day that has meaning for adults should be added. No doubt a feast ought to be involved.
Beltane. The Mayday holiday is essentially intact… the christian authority never found anything grisly and christian to subvert it into and couldn’t get people to stop celebrating it. It is an important day in the marking of the natural year, the first all outdoor celebration of the season.
Litha, Midsummer has largely been erased as a modern annual celebration but it is still acknowledged in passing. Consider the prevalence of marriage ceremonies that are scheduled on or around this date. These are holdover from the ancient midsummer rite and the culmination of the traditional courtship cycle which began on febuary 2.
Lughnassadh, the feast of the corn queen on August 2nd is the only completely lost annual festival day, but it is actually still widely celebrated in the form of summer community and company picnics… summer games like the sack race, three legged race, hay bale toss, egg on a spoon race, egg toss… are all rooted in this festival and an important part of the traditional outdoor feast.
Mabon or Harvest Home on the fall equinox, celebrates the bounty of the harvest and the change of seasons, in the US and Canada it remains as thanksgiving with dates pushed deeper into the fall to mark national days. In the UK there is a Harvest festival commonly celebrated in the fall on a date calculated from the fall equinox and the moon.