An excerpt from The Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Members of The Grey Council
The Annual Cycle of the seasonal celebrations is variously referred to as the Sacred Round, the Cycle of Sabbats, or the Wheel of the Year. The eight spokes of this Wheel are the Great Festivals that occur at the Solstices, Equninoxes, and Cross-Quarters midway between. These are also called Sabbats, from the Hebrew shabbat ("to cease or rest"). As the year progresses, the rituals and myths associated with each Sabbat recapitulate the great Cycle of Life, from Birth to Death to Rebirth. Some version of most of these festivals are celebrated by nearly all peoples of the temperate zones, and they have even been assimilated into the Christian calendar, as Saints' days and Masses. A bonfire in the evening is the most common feature. Often, people stay up all night around the fire, singing songs and telling stories.
In my community and traditions we have for many years been evolving a complex cycle of celebrations and have incorporated numerous elements of custom and folklore from our ancient heritage. We have drawn mainly from Western Europe and the British Isles, but as Greek mythology has always been a strong component of our collective Western lore, we also bring the Eleusinian ritual cycle into our seasonal observances. Often, the ritual will include a dramatic performance or Mystery Play related to the mythos. The main characters in our seasonal dramas are Mother Earth (Gaea) Father Sun (Sol), and their children: the leafy Green Man (Florus) and flowery Maid (Flora/Kore), and the horned Red Man (Faunus/Pan) and Furry Maid (Fauna).
Similar rights are held at these times by just about every magickal group in the entire worldwide magickal community. The only difference is between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. South of the equator, the seasons are reversed, and so the calendar dates on the wheel for those Sabbats are opposite. For each Sabbat you should redo your altar with appopriately colored altar cloths, candles, and seasonal directions.
As the Wheel of the Year forms a circle, any starting point is arbitrary, and several of these Sabbats are regarded as New Year in various traditions.