Whitethorn/ the blossom of the hawthorn

Bealtaine is a festival which occurs on May 1st and also refers to the month of May. It typifies our recent Irish ancestors’ dual spiritual tradition: predominantly Christian but with pagan aspects remaining. The Roman Catholic church tried and failed many times to get the Irish people to fully renounce their old pagan rituals and superstitions. In many instances, the church simply combined Christian with pagan festivals. A major Celtic / pagan festival, Bealtaine marks the start of the Celtic summer and it is also seen in Ireland as the month of Our Lady the Blessed Virgin Mary.’

‘Decorating a May Bush or May Tree was traditional in many parts of Europe. In Ireland, a tree or bush was decorated with ribbons or shells near an individual house. It was usually white thorn, the most potent of faery trees which flowers in May, which paradoxically is considered very unlucky if brought indoors. A green bough hung over the door, woven from sycamore, was also believed to bring good luck. Some believe that customs like these are a remnant of a very ancient pagan tree worship.’

A card of an illustration of the Hawthorn tree and fairy, by my sister Angela Corkery, from my book, A Posy of Wild Flowers.

A Time To Blossom Whatever Your Age – Beataine Festival

‘Although Age & Opportunity ’s inaugural Bealtaine Festival was held in May 1996, the origins of the festival lie in 1995.

It was initiated by Mamo McDonald and Catherine Rose, founding president and CEO respectively of Age & Opportunity, in partnership with Helen O’Donoghue at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Grainne Humphries of the Irish Film Institute.

Largely supported by public funding, Age & Opportunity’s general remit was, and is, to promote greater participation in society by older people in Ireland. The Bealtaine festival, which encourages and celebrates older people’s engagement with the arts, was the culmination of a process which started in the late 1980s when Age & Opportunity and a number of other organisations such as the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), Dublin City Council (then Corporation) and the Eastern Health Board organised Active Age weeks and a short arts festival called the Maytime Festival held in 1995.

During the same period, groups of older people engaged in the arts were emerging all over Ireland. They were supported by public libraries and the Vocational Education Committees. In 1993 Ireland was a founding member of the European Arts and Older People Network, and this provided links with European groups. In 1995, a committee was formed to hold a countrywide festival; a voluntary coordinator was provided by Age & Opportunity and other national cultural institutions became involved. The spread of appointments of Arts Officers throughout the country in the ’80s and ’90s offered great encouragement to the festival which rapidly grew to the point where a designated artistic director was appointed and the Arts Council became a major funder and supporter.’

The festival continues to grow with the support of our partners and thousands of organisers throughout the country, as well as all those who attend a Bealtaine event.

Bealtaine Events With Longford Library Services

This year there are many online events being ran by Longford libraries, including singing, poetry, dance and heritage. Here is a joyful video with Angela Reynolds.

Here are some poems by Paula Meehan, read by librarian, Kitty.

On Saturday there were events to celebrate Longford poet, Padraic Colum. Here are some of those events. This gathering brings young and old together and helps keeps creativity blossoming well into the future.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.