When do you celebrate Beltain?

Apr 25th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

By Nimue Brown

The obvious day to celebrate Beltain is the 1st of May – the date of the Celtic festival honoured by our ancestors. May Day traditions are longstanding and widespread, with maypoles, morris dancers, mummers, hobby horses and more. It’s a day that has carried through to have relevance for modern socialism, reflected in the May Day bank holiday.

You might instead want to celebrate Walpurgis Night – on the 30th of April. While the name connects to a saint – Walpurga – it’s also a night traditionally associated with witchcraft activity.

Beltain is associated in tradition with may blossom – hawthorn flowers, so you might choose to celebrate when those are out, rather than focusing on the day. You might want to celebrate the unfurling of leaves on trees – happening about now. You might celebrate the bluebells, the wild garlic and the wood anemones that flower at this time as well.

If you don’t live in the UK, this date may not be especially relevant. You might prefer to find something seasonal that speaks to you, reflects local tradition, or the start of summer.

Folklore suggests celebrating Beltain in the daytime – maypole dancing and gathering hawthorn boughs are not night time activities, although you could get lucky and end up cavorting in the woods all night! Work and school may make that impossible, especially with Beltain falling on a Tuesday this year. So you might take time off to celebrate, or celebrate in the evening instead. If you have a community to celebrate with, it might make sense to gather at a weekend instead when more people are likely to be available.

There are no right answers here. One of the great things about Paganism is that we have the freedom to work out what makes most sense where we are. We can respond to what’s on the ground, to how the seasons shift between years, and to our own personal needs and the needs of those around us.

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