The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans, consisting of the year’s chief solar events (solstices and equinoxes) and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as “quarter days” and the four midpoint events as “cross-quarter days”, particularly in Wicca. Differing sects of modern Paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.
Observing the cycle of the seasons has been important to many people, both ancient and modern. Contemporary Pagan festivals that rely on the Wheel are based to varying degrees on folk traditions, regardless of actual historical pagan practices. Among Wiccans, each festival is also referred to as a sabbat based on Gerald Gardner’s claim that the term was passed down from the Middle Ages, when the terminology for Jewish Shabbat was commingled with that of other heretical celebrations.Contemporary conceptions of the Wheel of the Year calendar were largely influenced by mid-20th century British Paganism.