Beltane or Beltain is the Gaelic May Day festival most commonly held on 1 May 1st, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Mann. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals along with Samhain (November 1st), Imbolc (February 1st), and Lughnasadh (August 1st).
Also known as Cétshamhain (“first of summer”), it marked the beginning ofsummer and was when cattle were moved to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around or between bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. Doors, windows, byres and livestock would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire. Many of these customs were part of May Day or Midsummer festivals in other parts of Great Britain and Europe.