Holidays to Observe in 2023 (And Beyond)

I love holidays.

I think holidays are a means to celebrate our values and establish connections with people through a combination of ritual, storytelling, and generosity. Holidays imbue our lives with additional meaning and give us opportunities to make memories with each other. As holidays tend to correspond to the time of year, and to the cycle of life, then each holiday presents an opportunity for us to engage with its respective traditions in such a way so that we can connect with each other and with ourselves.

Some of the holidays I will list are widely celebrated in other countries and by other cultures. This is where things can get a little tricky. I believe that sharing holidays can be an amiable method of multicultural exchange. However, some people may not feel comfortable sharing certain aspects of their culture with people who are different.

For example, my family celebrates Orthodox Easter, usually by engaging in a Greek-ified version of American Easter (which I also celebrate, but as a secular event). I have no problem with anyone having their own version of Greek Easter or using the day as an opportunity to celebrate Greek culture, but I do understand if some Greek Orthodox people feel differently from me. I think a lot of it comes down to intention and respect. If you approach a holiday with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and respect for the people who honor that day, then I think you can enjoy the day with a clear conscience.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of holidays for people to add to their calendars, either as a way to celebrate themselves, or to remind them to reach out to those who do. Some of these are “joke” holidays and some are quite serious, but they’re all fascinating. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please let me know if you think I’ve missed anything.

January 2023

January 5th: Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is the last day of Christmastide, otherwise known as the “12 Days of Christmas.” It’s another excuse to throw a party with your loved ones, so I say embrace it.

January 6th: Epiphany, or Three Kings Day

Many countries celebrate Three Kings Day as the major gift-giving holiday. You may want to celebrate by making a Rosca de Reyes (although if you live in the Bay Area or another urban area, you can probably order one from a small bakery).

January 13th: St. Knut’s Day

This holiday has Scandanavian origins and can be a good time to take down any Christmas decorations you may still have hanging (or you can leave them until February 2nd). In Finland, there is also a tradition involving a Christmas goat that I don’t fully understand, but it sounds like a fun time.

February 2023

February 2nd: Candlemas

Today is the day to get your candles blessed and to finally take down your Christmas decorations (or else you risk getting serious bad luck).

February 13th: Galentine’s Day

Galentine’s Day is that baller time of the year when you can get together with your girlfriends and celebrate your friendship. This holiday was originally the brainchild of Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation” and has spawned years of tea parties and brunches. (Note: This holiday does not compete with Valentine’s Day, so you can go to brunch with your gal pals and still have a romantic date with your boo-thang)

March 2023

March 14th: Pi Day

For those who despise math, the date is 3.14, which is an abbreviation for the symbol “pi.” I promise you won’t need to determine the circumference of any circles, but you should either make, or purchase, some kind of pie, and eat it. Preferably with friends, because solo pie has an “I’m feeling lost in my 20’s” vibe.

March 21st: Nowruz, or Persian New Year

One of my besties is Persian and whenever the Persian New Year comes around it’s nice to reach out to your friends who are celebrating. It’s also a really great opportunity for me to remind my friend that her dad’s crispy rice is some of the best I’ve ever had in my entire life and I would very much like to have it again.

April 2023

April 5th: First Contact Day

On this day in the year 2063, Zefram Cochrane will successfully test his warp engine, thus leading to first contact between the Vulcans and Humans. While any day of the year is a good day to watch Star Trek, this day in particular deserves recognition for its hopeful and positive message.

April 16th: Orthodox Easter

You know what’s more fun than one Easter? That’s right: two Easters. Unless you associate Easter with excruciatingly long church services, then you may not be a fan. However, in my family, today is the day we go out of our way to be annoying Greek stereotypes and eat the best Greek food we can get our hands on. (Note: Greek food does not include falafel. If you need a vegetarian option for Greek Easter, try Gigantes.)

April 23rd: St. George’s Day

Legend has it that St. George killed a dragon. That’s pretty dope, right? This holiday is pretty big in England, with people flying the flag of St. George, making special foods, enjoying the works of Shakespeare, and partaking in parades.

May 2023

May 1st: May Day, or Beltane

May Day marks the beginning of summer. There are many lovely ways to celebrate this time, like by hosting a bonfire, collecting flowers, and making offerings to the fairies. I’m also going to suggest, “lure a police officer to your remote island and sacrifice him in a giant flaming wicker man while singing, ‘sumer is icumen in’,” but you may first want to check your local municipality’s laws on that kind of thing.

May 4th: Star Wars Day

“May the Fourth” is commonly known as “Star Wars Day.” If you’re a fan of the franchise, then May 4th through May 6th are the days to watch the original trilogy, as well as the ten thousand other shows and movies Disney’s crapped out over the last decade.

June 2023

June 23rd: St. John’s Eve, or Sankthansaften

This midsummer celebration is the time to build a bonfire, have a picnic, and enjoy the warmth of summer. The entire world partakes in festivals related to this time, even in the United States (although it’s a lot bigger in Scandanavia).

June 24th: Litha, or Summer Solstice

Happy Midsummer! Go outside and enjoy the sunshine! Traditional ways to celebrate can include dancing around a May Pole, attending festivals and parades, and enjoying Scandanavian treats! There are celebrations for this time worldwide, even in the United States, with people in Alaska playing a Midnight Sun Game of baseball. Yes, there are Midsummer festivals in Sweden, but to my knowledge they do not involve ├Ąttestupa or sewing people into bear suits and lighting them on fire.

July 2023

I’ve got nothing for July. Someone needs to invent a holiday to keep things interesting because if it was up to me the entire month of July would be “stay inside with the shades drawn” time.

August 2023

August 1st: Lammas Day (Or Lughnasadh)

I very recently learned about this holiday from one of my best friends, who makes a point to observe the “full wheel” of the year. There are a lot of fascinating customs, based both in Christianity as well as Neopaganism. Some people perform handfasting ceremonies during this time of year, others bake bread, and some join in on blueberry or blackberry harvests.

September 2023

September 19th: International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Welcome to the stupidest holiday of the year! This day is most sacred amongst Pastafarians, aka the joke religion I joined in high school to seem more interesting. Today is the day when every person in the world is encouraged to talk like a pirate. I guess you could also do pirate-themed things, like watch “Muppet Treasure Island” and eat citrus to prevent scurvy.

October 2023

Mid-October to Mid-November: Alfablot

This very spooky holiday translates to “Blood for the Elves” and used to involve sacrificing a bull on top of a burial mound. However, before you brandish a crucifix in my direction, I feel like I should clarify that Alfablot is a bit like the Norse version of Hallowtide. I’m not asking you to make any blood sacrifices because that would be weird and kind of a vibe-killer. This time is more about paying respect to your ancestors while also showing a healthy level of fear of the dark. I’m far from an expert on Alfablot, so I recommend doing a little bit of research before you go all-in on the bull sacrifice.

November 2023

November 2nd: Dia de Los Muertos

“Day of the Dead” is a beautiful holiday that honors the people who’ve passed away. Although the name may sound grim, this holiday is really a joyous celebration of life and the people we’ve loved who have passed on. This holiday is celebrated in Mexico and some urban parts of the United States, but I hope to see it become more popular throughout the United States. Many people celebrate this day by building alters, or “ofrendas,” for the departed, and cooking their favorite foods. It’s really quite lovely.

November 11th: St. Martin’s Day

This holiday looks like fun. St. Martin’s Day is commemorated with food, wine, singing, and bonfires. Many countries in Europe celebrate this time, though there are a few German American communities that hold their own celebrations. There’s even a lantern festival in Albany, California.

November 25th: St. Catherine’s Day

On St. Catherine’s Eve, or November 24th, you may want to make a cattern cake. If St. Martin’s Day is “for the boys,” then St. Catherine’s Day is a day for the ladies. St. Catherine is the patron saint of milliners, seamstresses, and single women. There are even special prayers for unmarried women, called “Catherinettes,” who want to find a husband (and the prayers get increasingly desperate the older the unmarried woman).

December 2023

December 5th: Krampusnacht

If you’ve been on your best behavior then you have nothing to worry about. Though if you live in Bavaria, (or Washington, D.C.), then you may want to watch out for anyone dressed up like a hooved demon.

December 13th: St. Lucy’s Day (or St. Lucia’s Day)

This holiday is widely celebrated in Scandanavia and Italy. A common custom on this day is a St. Lucia procession, led by a woman dressed as St. Lucia, trailed by handmaidens, star boys, and gingerbread men. Special foods are also consumed during this time, like saffron buns. The show “Home for Christmas” features a St. Lucia procession.

December 25th to January 5th: Christmastide, or the 12 Days of Christmas

If you need suggestions for what to do during this time, then I’ve got you.

If you’re not a holiday person, then please feel free to go about your business and forget I even wrote this list. However, if you decide that you would like to participate in one of these holidays, then I recommend doing some research outside of this blog post to ensure that you are showing these cultural events the respect they deserve. While no one will really care if you mess up a ritual on “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” some of these holidays, Greek Easter and Persian New Year, are very important to the people who observe them every year.

I also want to acknowledge some of my sources for these holidays. While many of these I already knew about from lived experience, I also owe a lot of this list to Dr. Google and to a few other sources. My good friend, Wysteria Wynghoof, observes many of the holidays I’ve listed here and is a fantastic reference for all things witchy. The book “The Old Magic of Christmas: Yuletide Traditions for the Darkest Days of the Year,” by Linda Raedisch was also a wonderful resource for holidays beyond December 25th. (And if I’ve made any errors in my list, please feel free to correct me as I am also still learning!)

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