7 junio, 2024

The 10 most important pagan holidays in the world

The Pagan celebrations They are the annual celebrations that are not inspired by any of the great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The term pagan It was a vulgar name used in the 5th century by the first Christians to designate those who worshiped Greek and Roman gods, or those of other peoples.

The pagans, of course, were polytheists, and did not believe in the one God of the Jews or the Christians. They celebrated the solstices and equinoxes with festivals, agrarian and funeral rites were frequent, and in general, the vast majority, who were not Christian, followed their religious traditions.

With the Emperor Constantine I, at the beginning of the fourth century, Christianity became the religion of the empire, the only official one. That translated into immediate religious changes, at least in big cities like Rome. In the more remote places, things did not change so quickly. Those remote rural areas were called pay, and its inhabitants told them pagans.

This is how the peasants who worshiped “false gods” were called pagans, because they did not profess or accept the “true religion”. In its beginnings, the term paganism was derogatory, although today it is not exactly like that.

The church, in order to erase the pagan festivities and make non-Christians accept the faith, gradually adapted the agrarian and other celebrations to Christian practice, the most tangible result of which is that, over the centuries, many of the festivals that are celebrated today have a pagan origin. Others simply belong to other cultures, such as the Chinese, and others have been invented in recent years.

Most important pagan festivals in the world

1. Carnival

Carnival is one of the most widespread festivities in Western culture. It is celebrated immediately before the beginning of Lent, and its date is variable. Its origin is not known with certainty, but some point to the Greek and Roman civilizations. In Greece, homage was made to the god of wine and fertility, Dionysus.

In Rome there were the Saturnalia. On this festival, Saturn, the god of agriculture, was honored with a sacrifice, followed by a banquet in which men spent a whole day drunk, in homage to the god Bacchus.

At first the dates coincided with the time when we celebrate Christmas today, but the Church moved this celebration to Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, in which it is forbidden to eat meat.

The term carnival is related to this tradition, since etymologically, it comes from the Italian carnival, which means «remove meat», according to some historians. Others associate it with Carna, the Celtic goddess of beans and bacon. And still others go further back, to the Egyptians, and to a rite in honor of Isis, where a procession of masks culminated in the launching of a wooden boat to start the sailing time. In Egypt it was done annually in March.

The way to celebrate carnival has its own peculiarities, depending on the part of the world in question. Among the best known carnivals are the carnival of Rio and Venice and in Spain, the carnival of Cádiz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Rio de Janeiro. It is one of the greatest shows in the world, there are various spaces to celebrate it in all the streets of the city. It is famous for its color, for its musicality and for the samba, the typical dance.
Santa Cruz of Tenerife. This festival has been declared a Heritage of International Tourist Interest. It stands out for its color in the streets, its musical groups; the murgas and comparsas and by the Carnival Queens.
Cadiz. This city began to celebrate carnival due to its cultural importance as it became one of the main ports from Spain to America. Sailors from everywhere passed through there, leaving many of their traditions. One of the most characteristic features are its musical groups: comparsas, chirigotas, quartets and choirs, which every year participate in a contest held at the Gran Teatro Falla and in the streets.
Venice. It is unique because of its great differences with the previous celebrations. This carnival dates back to the 11th century and is characterized by the typical masks and period costumes.

Other notable carnivals are Mardi Gras, in New Orleans, United States, or the Binche carnival, in Belgium.


It is one of the most popular festivals in North America and in some Anglo-Saxon countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom. Little by little, this celebration has spread to other parts of the world, due to globalization.

This party, although it is influenced by the Christian calendar and the celebration of All Saints’ Day (All Hallow Eve), has pagan origins. It is related to the Celtic tradition of the harvest and the festival of Samhain, in which the line between the two worlds narrows, allowing the entry of good and evil spirits. One of the reasons for the party according to Celtic tradition is to scare away those evil spirits.

For centuries it was practiced in Ireland and Scotland, and was brought by migrants from these nations to the United States, where it took deep root. Nowadays it has become a celebration where people dress up, generally as scary characters, parties are organized, parades, pumpkins are carved (jack o’lantern) and children ask for sweets around the houses with the famous «trick or deal».

3. Winter Solstice

The festivities that celebrate the arrival of winter take place almost all over the world. In fact, what is known today as Christmas, although it is a religious holiday, has many pagan elements.

Among the most striking festivals that are celebrated on the winter solstice, the Inty Raymi or Festival of the Sun, held in Cuzco, Peru, stands out. Sure, in the southern hemisphere winter begins in June, and that’s why this holiday is celebrated on June 24.

This ritual, of Inca origin, is a tribute to the sun god, to whom a sacrifice is offered to obtain good harvests, and to the Inca emperor.

With this ceremony, the ancient Incas feared that the sun would not return, and they prayed for its return. Today it is considered the second largest festivity in South America.

4. Summer Solstice

There are also festivals whose motive is to celebrate the arrival of summer. The best known is the Fiesta de San Juan, and for this reason they are called june holidays. Although it is now considered a Christian festival, its origins and rites are pagan, as it comes from the Litha, or summer solstice. It used to be celebrated on June 21, the day of the arrival of summer, but with the Christian adoption it was changed to the day of San Juan.

Currently, the festival consists of lighting bonfires that, according to their pagan origins, serve to scare away evil spirits and purify oneself from within. The festival of San Juan is celebrated in many European countries such as Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, etc. In Poland and Ukraine this rite is known as the Ivan Kupala holiday.

The June festivities are also celebrated in America, due to colonization.

5. Holi or festival of colors

Holi is a Hindu festival that welcomes spring. It is celebrated the day after the first full moon in February or March.

Although it has a religious character, it is still considered within the term that we have defined as pagan, since it does not belong to Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

Holi is inaugurated by lighting a bonfire, on the night of the full moon, where everyone gathers. This festival, celebrated in India, Nepal and other countries outside of Asia, is also known as the festival of colors, since one of the rituals is to sprinkle oneself with colored powders to convey joy.

Elephants also play an important role in this festival. The animals are also decorated and participate in races and other games.

6. New Years Party

The celebration of the New Year, although by religious tradition in many Christian countries it is framed within the Christmas festivities, has a pagan origin, since the objective was to celebrate the entry into a new agricultural cycle. Ancient calendars were governed by agricultural cycles (sowing, harvesting, etc.).

With the transformation of calendars, today the last day of the year is December 31. The customs vary greatly depending on the country, although one of the elements of this festival, which coincides in almost all countries, are the fireworks, toasting with liquor and the festive atmosphere.

7. Lantern Festival, or Chinese lanterns

One of the most striking New Year’s parties in the world is the Lantern Festival or Chinese lanterns. This tradition is more than 2,000 years old and ends the New Year celebrations according to the Chinese calendar.

The lights that are thrown into the sky symbolize the way home of the party guests. They are also a source of harmony and unity for the whole year. The lanterns are usually made of fine rice paper and a support made of bamboo to give rigidity to the structure, which will then be allowed to fly.

8. The Tomatina

Buñol is a municipality in the Valencian Community, Spain, with less than 10,000 inhabitants. However, on the last Wednesday of August, tourists from all over the world arrive, completely changing the panorama of the city. The reason? The curious party that takes place that day.

Although its cultural interest is not particularly relevant, it has become worldwide popular for its originality and how fun it is.

La Tomatina de Buñol is relatively recent. Its origin is as curious as the festival, since it began with a fight between two young people during the town’s festivities in 1945. This confrontation led to a pitched battle with tomatoes that was in a nearby vegetable stall.

Although this confrontation was broken up by the police, the following year the young people again organized another fight. This time with tomatoes brought from their homes, until year after year it has been consolidated as the festival it is today, and in 2002 it was declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest.

It should be noted that the tomatoes used for the party are harvest surpluses that do not meet the quality requirements demanded at the national level.

9. Burning Man

Although it is quite recent (it dates from 1986), every year in September, thousands of people gather in the Black Rock desert in Nevada, to attend the Burning Man party.

This party consists of building a huge wooden man, to then burn it in a spectacular way. Something similar to what happens in the Fallas of Valencia, which are World Heritage Sites and which are not included in this list due to their Christian nature.

This celebration was founded by Larry Harvey and Jerry James. At first it began to be celebrated on June 24, to celebrate the summer solstice, although the date was later changed.

Some of its peculiarities are that it is a party organized by its own citizens, ecological, since no traces of the burning are left, as well as cultural and artistic.



Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *