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Read about May Day, Lunasa and other traditional summertime traditions.

May Day

Bealtaine, or May Day, the first day of summer, was a welcoming festival of flowers, dancing and bonfires. People decorated the outside of their houses with May bushes, flowers and furze (gorse) to promote good luck.

They also sprinkled their homes and farms with holy water to promote good luck. They believed in protecting themselves, their home, their herd, the churn and dairy yield from malign influences and mischievous beings from the otherworld.

In the twentieth century the month of May was also characterised by religious processions in honour of the Virgin Mary, and flower filled May altars were common.


The 23rd June, the eve of the feast day of St. John the Baptist was often called Midsummer as it was close to the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Communal bonfires were lit on the hillsides and rival communities vied for the biggest bonfire. Dancing, courting and sometimes fighting were features of the celebrations.

Families would light small bonfires on their farm and throw lighted embers from the fire onto their fields in an effort to ensure a favourable harvest.

Summer was also a time for outdoor entertainment and sport for all ages. Fishing, road bowling and crossroads dancing were popular summer activities.

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