Did you know that Bealtaine is one of the most important feast days in the ancient Irish calendar?

Wicklow Naturally
Written by
Fri 30th April 2021

Today is May Eve, or Oíche Bealtaine, the eve of the Celtic feast of Bealtaine.

Did you know that Bealtaine is one of the most important feast days in the ancient Irish calendar? Like the other Celtic feast days (of Imbolc, Lúghnasa and Samhain), it had great significance for farming, and many customs were practised to ensure protection for herds and crops.

It was also a day that a meal of grain would be prepared from last year’s harvest to show how well the housewife had managed her stores for the year. Luckily, these days our local producers in Wicklow provide us with a bounty of delicious seasonal food throughout the year! Our bowl of grain (porridge) is topped with some delicious honey from our member Tara Hill Honey.

‘May Bushes’ were decorated with eggshells and flowers to ward off the ‘fairy folk’ from the property and keep the farm, homestead and family safe. After you have used some of our member’s Ballynerrin Free Range Eggs, why not use the painted eggshells to decorate your own May Bush?

Flowers were often brought into the home to celebrate nature’s new blossoms and the promise of fruit and honey and good crops at the end of the season. Cattle were often returned to pasture on higher ground for the summer and they were sometimes walked between two bonfires to protect them and their milk for the coming year. We know that our dairy farmers produce delicious milk, cream and cheese from cattle that have been grazing outside on lush Wicklow pasture. No wonder these Bailey’s ladies look so happy in their beautiful fields at The Orchard Centre! Great tasting grass makes great-tasting dairy produce…have you tried Wicklow Farmhouse Cheese or some aged Coolattin Cheddar?

We have so many Wicklow Naturally members who are farming livestock and growing food, we wonder if they still practice these customs? The best news is Bealtaine is the start of summer in Ireland so let’s look forward to sunnier times ahead! Have you any favourite May Day customs?

Pictures courtesy of The Orchard Centre and Santina Kennedy. 

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