What is Irish May Day?
May 1st is known as May Day in much of the Western world. However, in Ireland May Day holds more than bouquets of flowers. In fact, the holiday has two pseudonyms: Labour Day and Lá Bealtaine. Held on the first Monday of May (which may or may not fall on May 1), Labour Day is celebrated in nearly 100 countries around the world. Oftentimes, rallies and town hall meetings are held in support of fair wages and workers’ rights. It is also a bank holiday. Thirdly, Lá Bealtaine is the seasonal festival associated with the day. Its origins date back to Celtic times and include a bon fire, which was originally said to ward off evil spirits.
Celebrate with Fresh Flowers at the Front Door
The preparation for May Day starts on April 30th when the Irish gather flowers from their yards (or a local market) and place them at their door as well as the doors of their neighbors as a token of goodwill. This is a longstanding tradition and is meant to bring luck to the home. This activity is one that both children and adults alike enjoy—and one that is easy to carry out in any part of the world to create your own May Day celebration.
The Tradition of Drawing “Lucky” Water
In centuries past, the first water drawn from a well on May Day was said to bring good fortune and protection for the household. The morning dew that fell on the grass and flowers was also prized—by women especially—because it was thought to be good for the complexion. While you may not be drawing water from a well today, you can revive this practice by gathering dew from your garden in the morning.
Attend a May Day Festival
Thinking a bit more modern? Many towns and villages in Ireland host community-centric festivals with music, food, and bonfires to commemorate the spring holiday and the blossoming of the flowers. Many of these festivals feature may poles adorned with ribbons and flowers, which kids of all ages enjoying dancing around.
Check local outlets to find a festival near the area of Ireland where you will be. If you are celebrating at home, consider inviting friends and family to gather at your home.