EBK Activity Sheets


Pagan to Christian Festivals
Same Ceremony, Different Purpose (July to December)
Christmas Trees & Carols; Halloween Ghosts -  Nash Ford Publishing



Christians took over pagan festivals as well as pagan shrines. Here are some popular ones in Britain for the second half of the year:

  • Lammas Day: The Christian practice of blessing of the fields takes place on this day at the beginning of the harvest season. The first loaf from a new crop is brought to church and given to the local lord. This is the same day as the Celtic festival of Lughnasadh in honour of the god of light, Loucetios, who has created the harvest.
  • Halloween & Bonfire Night: These were at the same time as the Celtic festival of Samhain. This was a harvest festival when bonfires were lit. Their smoke drove out fleas from the cattle. Because it was the beginning of the darker half of the year, the Celts thought the border between their World and the Otherworld became thin and ghosts would escape.
    • Christians said the fires would chase away the Devil. English Protestants adopted this tradition to celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes and the ending of the Gunpowder Plot.
    • All Hallows' Day was a day created for all the saints by the Pope because there were too many to have a day each. The day before is Halloween (All Hallows' Eve). The Christians said you should honour the dead on this day and adopted the ghost traditions.
  • Yuletide: Another word for Christmas. It was the Saxon Winter festival. The ceremony of bringing in the Yule Log was probably a pagan ritual in honour of their god of thunder, Thunor. His symbol was the oak tree.
  • Christmas Trees: Putting one in your house is a German tradition adopted in Victorian Britain. But legend says St. Boniface (an Anglo-Saxon from Devon) told the German pagans to do this. This was to remember his destruction of their god Thunor's sacred oak tree.
  • Twelfth Night (and Christmas): These are at the same time as Wassailing Celebrations.
    • Pagan Saxons drank a special wassail drink from a bowl decorated with leaves. They took the empty cup round the houses, singing songs & asking for food & drink. The Christians turned this into Carolling.
    • Cider is poured onto the roots of fruit trees (especially apple trees). Songs are sung and horns are blown to ensure the tree has lots of fruit in the coming year. Christians added prayers and said the horns scared away evil spirits.

Click for festivals in the first half of the year


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