May Day has been celebrated in Ireland since pagan times as the feast of Bealtaine and in latter times as Mary’s day. Traditionally, bonfires were lit to mark the coming of summer and to banish the long nights of winter. Officially Irish May Day holiday is the first Monday in May. Old traditions such as bonfires are no longer widely observed, though the practice still persists in some places across the country. Limerick, Clare and many other people in other counties still keep on this tradition such as the town of Arklow in Co. Wicklow.
“Tis the month of Mary, Blessed Queen of the May,
Mother of God we pray you, Bless and protect all mothers,
On this their special day.” ~ Irish Prayer
Beltane or Beltain is the Celtic May Day festival. Beltane is commonly held on May first, or midway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, Beltane was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Traditionally, bonfires were lit to mark the coming of summer and to banish the long nights of winter.