Beltane Date in the current year: May 1, 2016

Beltane Beltane is an ancient Gaelic festival that is associated with the beginning of summer. It coincides with May Day, but the celebration typically begins in the evening of April 30. The world “Beltane” itself refers to the month of May in the Gaelic languages.

Ancient Gaels had four seasonal festivals – Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. Each of these festivals was associated with the beginning of a particular season and certain agricultural works typical for this season.

Beltane was the day when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. The Gaels performed special rituals aimed at protecting the cattle and crops and encouraging growth. They lit bonfires and walked cattle around them. Beltane bonfires were believed to have protective powers.

People also decorated their cattle, themselves and their homes with yellow flowers that reminded of fire such as rowan, primrose, gorse, hawthorn, marsh marigold. Many Gaels visited holy wells that were thought to maintain youthfulness and bring beauty.

Over the years, Beltane has merged with May Day. However, in some places it is celebrated separately. For instance, in Edinburgh an annual Beltane Fire Festival is held on the eve of May Day.

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