It’s May Eve in north-western Europe and at sunset the ancient festival of Bealtaine, marking the start of the summer in the native calendars of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man (as well as the commencement of the second half of the year), will begin in earnest, running all the way to sunset on May Day itself. For many communities in Medieval times the celebrations around this point represented a welcome respite from the hard labour of springtime, beginning with large communal bonfires on Oíche Bhealtaine or May Eve and finishing with market-festivals on Lá Bealtaine or May Day.
While most traditions have fallen into obscurity through the advent of Christianity, foreign colonisation and supposed modernisation (in Ireland at least), some customs preserve, notably the decorating of homes with white and yellow flowers or garlands from those plants normally associated with the coming of summer: rowan, whitethorn, primrose, gorse, hazel and marsh marigold. Related to this is the making of the Dos Bhealtaine or May Bush, a household or neighbourhood cutting of whitethorn or rowan erected outside the family home or village and decorated with bright ribbons, a symbol that was once of great importance. This tradition – along with the use of bonfires – has enjoyed a small revival in recent times.
Lá Bealtaine also marks the creation of An Sionnach Fionn, making this a four-year anniversary for The White Fox as well. So whether you are celebrating Bealtaine (Ireland) , Bealltainn (Scotland) or Boaltinn (Mann), I hope it is a good one for you and yours.