May Day... Lá Bealtaine
Beltane is the anglicised name of the Gaelic May Day festival. May Day is on 1 May and is held on or near the halfway mark between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. It is one of the oldest and most ancient festival days. It is widely observed in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, and in modern times has spread to the Diaspora. In Irish Gaelic it is called Lá Bealtaine, in Scottish Gaelic, Là Bealltainn, an in Manx Gaelic Laa Boaltinn. Beltane is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Samhain, Imbolc, and Lughnasa. There are several theories on the etymology of Beltane; the most accepted one is that it is from the common Celtic Belo-tenia, meaning 'bright or shinning fire,' which in turn goes back to the Indo-European 'Bhel (to shine) tepnos (warm).
It is not a 'fire festival,' but fire is a integral part of the festivities. Prior to modern times it was a festival to mark and celebrate the moving of livestock to summer pastures, to honour the Old Ways and old gods, and evoke blessing of fertility of the tribe and the life giving cattle.
Beltane is mentioned in the earliest written Gaelic literature when Christian monks began to write down Gaelic lore and myths in early medieval times. The medieval accounts were ancient even then and date back before Christianity was introduced to the Gaelic homelands.
On the Beltane Eve the festival began. The people gathered to feast, have drink, and make offerings to the Aos Sí, who are the old gods of the Gaels. Byres, the windows and doors of homes, etc., were decorated with flowers. It was a joyous festival ushering in the bountiful time when the days grew longer, the sun shined more, and the weather grew warmer.
Beltane is still celebrated and the practice is growing. It is now held not only in the Gaelic homeland, but in the Diaspora, and has been incorporated into similar May Eve and May Day celebrations in Europe. While many see Beltane as just a good time with a bonfire, there is also a growing interest in the spiritual aspects of the festival. The concepts of the a new growing season, the connection to the Old Ways of ancestors, and reflection upon life, are also now part of Beltane for a growing number of people.
|a sacred fire of Bealtaine|
|Sláinte ar Lá Bealtaine|
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