The Lesser Sabbats are festivals observed by Wiccan and Neopagan groups throughout the world. There is a wide diversity as to which groups or individuals celebrate any given Sabbat and many do not observe them all. The Sabbats in general are linked to Wicca Witchcraft and the Wheel of the Year which was founded and established by its founder Gerald Gardner in the 1950’s. The actual festivals themselves have been around for centuries but it was not until Wicca Witchcraft formalized them into the Wheel of the Year that they gained more prominence in today’s society.
The Lesser Sabbats are also referred to as quarter days, minor Sabbats or Sun Sabbats. Quarter days are based on the position of the sun and are held at the equinoxes and solstices each year. Like the greater Sabbats they are celebrated by most of the western world on specific dates, but Pagan and Neopagan followers will often perform their rituals on the correct calender day which varies each year. All of the Sabbats are also linked to Astrology as they are astrological events.
There are four Lesser Sabbats:
The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule or Christmas, observed on December 25th; The Vernal Equinox, also referred to as Ostara, Lady Day or the Spring Equinox, celebrated on March 21st; The Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer or Litha, and celebrated on June 21st; and The Autumn Equinox, also known as Harvest Festival or Mabon, celebrated on September 21st.
The Lesser Sabbats are more closely linked to Germanic pre-Christian feasts than any other and have a larger following in Europe than elsewhere in the world. Like the Greater Sabbats the dates and practices have been adopted by other religious groups, most notably the Catholic Church. This may have been done to try and subvert followers to what was the newer religion of the Middle Ages at the expense of older more established traditional beliefs such as the worship of Nature and the seasons.
Yule and Litha are held at the time of the corresponding solstice when the shortest and longest days occur respectively. Ostara and Mabon are celebrated with the equinoxes where day and night are of equal length and nature is in balance.
Some of the Lesser Sabbats are very well known and widely celebrated. Christmas is probably the most widely followed Sabbat but it is not as important to Pagan and Neopagan groups as Samhain. The giving and receiving of presents during Christmas is an old custom and the trees and mistletoe associated with it are of pre-Christian origins. The Harvest Festival is also popular in Europe where it is traditional to share the fruits of the earth with friends and neighbors.