Beltane is the Celtic fire festival that celebrates the beginning of summer, an extravagent holiday and a time for frolicking and feasting around the traditional bonfires lit after moon-rise the evening before. The opposite side of the wheel is Samhain (31st October/1st November), which welcomes dark winter. Much has been written about the origins of these festivities and rituals. Julius Caeser reported on them in typically propagandistic manner when he came here. Being intimitately related to the land and the seasons, I suspect they originate way, way further back than is reported.
Of course, to Christians, these pagan feast days were regarded as sinful. Like the many churches which were built on and over ancient, sacred pagan sites, the ceremonies were replaced in the calendar with Christian celebrations. Thankfully the knowledge and cultural habits of what came before were preserved in many ways. We observe many of them still without even thinking about it, which I love. I’m not a pagan, but pre-Christian civilisation is as much a part our heritage as any.
Right, I’m off out to slaughter a boar, ravish a maiden and then burn something. Oh, and if you’re of Germanic stock – Happy Walpurgisnacht!