May Bealtaine (Celtic Festival of Fire and Fertility) History
May Day in Ireland, like in many Celtic religions, commemorates the coming of spring and the blossoming of flowers and fruit, a festival known as Lá Bealtaine. May Day maypoles, brightly decorated tall poles with ribbons attached, are a common sight and a reminder of the country's pagan past.
May Day is also celebrated as part of the global worker’s rights movement, with protests and marches taking place in the larger cities and towns of Ireland. The contrast between the two events on this day are remarkable but each offer their own charms. The passive and contemplative aspects of May Day are countered by the vocal energy of Labour Day. May Day is on May 2.
May Bealtaine (Celtic Festival of Fire and Fertility) Facts & Quotes
- Bonfires are lit to mark the Bealtaine festival, this seasonal celebration is full of rituals related to the coming summer months such as driving out cattle and visiting holy wells to bring beauty and youth.
- May Day traditions in Ireland include, the May Bush, the May Pole, May Bonfires, May Flowers and May Boughs. All are associated with luck and protection.
- In France, it is customary to give a sweet smelling flower called the spring of lily of the valley (a symbol of springtime) on May 1st. The tradition started in 1561 when King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm.
- The US does not celebrate May Day opposed to the widespread marches and protest found in Europe. In 1958, President Eisenhower made May 1 Law Day and Loyalty Day as a means of presenting a religious or patriotic alternative to what is seen as a communist or socialist day.
All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. – Martin Luther King Jr.
May Bealtaine (Celtic Festival of Fire and Fertility) Top Events and Things to Do
- Visit a Bealtaine bonfire to get a Gaelic twist to May Day. The Hill of Uisneach, in county Westmeath will host the Bealtaine Fire Celebration this May 6, 2016.
- Discover some of Ireland’s natural beauty and cultural landmarks. Take a trip to Dublin to see the Castle, take a peaceful stroll around Trinity College or catch some traditional music at the Cobblestone.
- Attend Beltane festival and witness Irish culture in action. While there try out the Maypole tradition. Singles can take two ribbons and attempt to entwine themselves with a future partner.
- Read a book about the diverse history of May Day. The Gaelic aspects are covered in books like these:
1) Beltane: Springtime Rituals, Lore, & Celebration by Raven Grimassi
2) Beltane: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for May Day by Melanie Llewellyn
3) Beltane by Meg Yardley
- Watch a film relating to worker’s rights. Our favourite films on the topic:
1) The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
2) Office Space (1999)
3) Caesar Chavez (2014)