quarter day

Cross-quarter day

A cross-quarter day is a day falling approximately halfway between a solstice and an equinox. These days originated as pagan holidays in Sweden, Norway, Finland, United Kingdom and Ireland, and survive in modern times as neopagan holidays. The cross-quarter days were also independently developed in East Asia as four of the 24 Solar Terms.

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In some cultures, including ancient Irish and East Asian cultures, the cross-quarter days mark the beginning of each season (see traditional seasons). In others, including the modern United States', the cross-quarter days mark the middle of each season (see astronomical seasons).


Together with the solstices and equinoxes (Yule, Ostara, Midsummer, and Mabon), these form the eight solar holidays in the neopagan wheel of the year. They are often celebrated on the evening before the listed date, since traditionally the new day was considered to begin at sunset rather than at midnight.

Festival name Date Sun's Position
Samhain 1 Nov (alt. 5-10 Nov) ≈ 15°
Imbolc 2 Feb (alt. 2-7 Feb) ≈ 15°
Beltane 1 May (alt. 4-10 May) ≈ 15°
Lughnasadh 1 Aug (alt. 3-10 Aug) ≈ 15°

There are Christian and secular holidays that correspond roughly with each of these four, and some argue that historically they originated as adaptations of the pagan holidays, although the matter is not agreed upon. The corresponding holidays are:

Groundhog Day is celebrated in North America. It is said that if a groundhog comes out of its hole on 2 February and sees its shadow (that is, if the weather is good), there will be six more weeks of winter. February 2nd marks the end of the short days of winter. Because average temperatures lag behind day length by several weeks, it is (hopefully) the beginning of the end of winter cold.

Other names

The cross quarter days are referred to by some as “The Quatcruses”.

For example:

Halloween is based on the tradition of celebrating the Autumn/Winter Quatcrus, which nowadays happens around November 7th.

Beltane occurs on or very near the Spring/Summer Quatcrus.

These examples refer only to the northern hemisphere. A better usage could be: “The November Quatcrus” and “The May Quatcrus” respectively.

See also

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