|What is Beltane?|
A Tale of Four Seasons
The ancient Celtic year was built around the four seasons. Each season was marked with two holidays (8 in total). The four main holidays fall in the middle of our current seasons, and the year begins on Samhain.
Samhain (pronounced SAHwen): Oct. 31st. The start of 6 months of darkness and death, Samhain marks the beginning of winter. Herds are brought out of the pastures; some are led into stables for protection, and others slaughtered for the family’s survival (also because feed is scarce). This holiday is the time when the veil between life and death is thinnest. People honor their deceased ancestors through large gatherings with bonfires, dancing, feasting and the building of altars. Halloween’s origins came from Samhain, which remains the most popular Gaelic holiday.
Imbolc (Im-mbolg): Feb. 2nd. The festival marks the coming of spring and gradual return of the sun. It also celebrates the passing of winter. This culminates as a celebration of the home, honoring the comforts shelter gives. Families spend time cleaning their homes, the early origin of “spring cleaning”. Feasts were held inside by the hearth, and offerings of coins, food and water were left at the doors to help bless the family and property. Christians observe this same holiday, long ago renaming it the Feast of Saint Brigid (BREED). On Imbolc Eve, Brigid was said to visit virtuous households and bless the inhabitants.
Beltane (BEY-al-TIN-ah): May 1st. The Gaelic May Day Festival, which is the halfway point between spring and summer, this holiday begins six months of light and life. Celebrations are largely around fertility and marriage (much as spring is today), and it also signals the time to bring animal herds back to the pastures for the summer. This remains the second most popular holiday, after Samhain.
Lughnasadh (LOOnassah): August 1st. The season of Harvest is a time to celebrate the bounty the earth has provided with great feasts, trading and even a little matchmaking. These gatherings were often accompanied with great athletic challenges for those who wished to display their strength. It’s also a time to meditate, pray and give thanks for everything the earth and life has provided.