What do we celebrate? When do we celebrate it? and Why?
As we move through the seasons of the year and the turning cycle of nature there are key points (sometimes referred to as 'Stations of the Sun') that occur, when something is changing or beginning/ending. Four of these key points are linked to astronomical occurrences and another four that intersperse them are linked to events in the farming (livestock) year, making eight in total.
Our ancestors starting as hunter-gatherers, moving on to become pastoralists and then farmers were far more in tune with these changes within nature than we are living in our towns and cities and divorced from the real world. They lived 'cheek by jowl' with the natural world and their lives and survival depended upon their understanding of nature and the turning wheel of the seasons.
Out of this came came customs and practices, rituals and superstitions, things that had to be undertaken to ensure that life progressed smoothly and that; the Sun did return or the cattle were healthy, that the lands and the animals were fertile, that their houses and lives were protected, that the Gods/Goddesses or other spirits of nature were happy and would look favourably on them (some of these look downright weird to us today).
We know that our ancestors marked the four solar festivals, the two solstices and the two equinoxes because many of the stone circles and other stone monuments align with them. We also know that the four agricultural festivals were marked by the traditions and folk-lore that has been handed down to us. What we don't know is whether at any given time any of our ancestors celebrated all eight of them.
What we do know is that this system is an amazingly effective way of staying in touch with the turning cycle of nature throughout the course of the year, allowing us to identify and connect with what is happening in the natural world.
These are our traditions, customs and practices and we need to keep them alive - after all we do not know what might happen if we don't!!
Each celebration has its own page on which you will find all the information relevant to it.
So why do we call it 'The Stations of the Sun'? We know today that the Sun doesn't move (much) and it is the Earth that goes around the Sun - but - when we look up into the Sky we still talk about the Sun rising in East and setting in the West - the Sun being overhead at midday - exactly the same as our to our ancient ancestors it appears as if the Sun moves through our sky and has different positions (stations) at different times of the year.