Beltaine is traditionally a Gaelic festival celebrated on the first day of May.
In modern times, Neopagans and Wiccans have adopted the holiday as a cross quarter (a midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice). Beltaine is a celebration of fertility and welcomes in the season of Summer. Usually, this time is used to celebrate the newly planted crops that are still vulnerable to blight and frost. So, this celebration is one that welcomes in the Sun and the awakening of the Earth from the long slumber of winter.
At this time, feasts are prepared and there is usually a bonfire and Maypole. A Lord and Lady of the festival are chosen. It is a festival of the joy of growth, fertility and life. These are fun traditions you can teach your children no matter your religious affiliation.
You can construct a Maypole from a post or long dowel or even a long cardboard tube. Attach colorful ribbons to one end and stand it up. Then dance around it- over, under, over under- to wrap the ribbons around the pole. (For you adults out there, yes, this is a symbol of sex.)
Athletic competitions are a fun way to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Flower gathering and making flower crowns are fun for children in their “princess” phase. Leaping over the bonfire is considered asking for fertility (or ensuring fertility) for both your and the crops planted in the fields. Circle the fire three times for luck throughout the year. Sing, dance and make a feast.
Beltaine is about expressions of joy and there is no better way to do this, than to let your children have fun. The weather should (hopefully) be turning and encourage them to play outside. Show them the green on the trees, the blooming wild flowers and explain what the flowers mean to the plants. Take the opportunity to teach your children about the newly sprouted plants that need time to grow and protection from an early death.
May Day is still celebrated in many places. In some places is International Worker’s Day (like Labor day). In others it is just a Spring Festival. You will still see dancing, Maypoles, flowers and feasting on this day. There might be a May Queen and Morris Dancing if you are from Great Britain. In France, You may receive a bouquet of Lily of the Valley or a dog rose from your loved ones. In Germany you have the day off of work, dance around Maypoles. You may deliver a ribbon wrapped tree to a woman if you are a man in love and vice versa, you might make a heart from rice or flowers in front of the house of a man. Vappu (May Day in Finland) is one of the only public festivals and you celebrate it outside with picnics, a lemon drink, balloons and pastries.
Even in America, May Day used to be celebrated with the presentation of May Baskets. We have sort of shifted this tradition to Easter with the Easter basket instead. These baskets were filled with flowers and treats and left for people on their doorstep as a surprise.
I am a firm believer that a child should be introduced to many traditions and cultures. Beltaine/May Day is a lovely holiday/tradition that is about joy and life. It is fun and can be celebrated without religious overtones if you are concerned about that. However, I think it is important to introduce your child to the beliefs of others. This is an important step in getting them to understand others without judgement or intolerance. We teach our children right and wrong by our actions and our words. By letting them learn about others in a fun way, we are showing them that it is okay to believe in other things and that it is not wired or scary or bad. It is just different.
Extra! Beltaine Recipe!
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup oatmeal
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1. In a large bowl, combine all your dry ingredients.
2. Add chunks of butter and combine until large chunks are formed.
3. Add buttermilk and mix with your hands. When a coarse dough is formed, turn out onto a flour surface and kneads lightly.
4. Form into small, flat circles.
5. Heat oil in a pan or griddle.
6. Place formed dough onto the griddle and cook about 3 minutes or until side is golden and flip. Cook until other side is golden and remove from heat.
7. Eat warm with jam and honey.