Our family celebration of Bealtaine (May Day)

We were delighted with the arrival of Bealtaine (May Day) as the Sun was shining, the air was warming up and we had the hope of warmer days and garden growth.

We have been observing the “unfurling” of nature as a family… the first call of the cuckoo, the arrival of our beloved house martins, the scents and perfumes in the air as the gorse blossoms and our familiar hedgerow plans arrive one by one. The season was bursting upon us and we wanted to mark the occasion, together as a family.

The lovely Rowan Tree
The lovely Rowan Tree


Bealtaine has long been an important event in the old Celtic calendar. The Festival of Fire… it marked the beginning of Summer. We decided it was an event worth celebrating so I gathered the clan and we discussed what we wanted to do to mark the day.

The Rowan tree played a very important part in Bealtaine ceremonies and customs, thought to hold magical powers of healing and protection it was used to protect families, livestock and produce. It was an ancient practice to bring sprigs of the tree into the house on May Day eve and place some at the windows and doors to keep the house safe and bind it in the Rowan’s protective magic.

We have a beautiful Rowan tree just outside our kitchen window. Planted as a young sapling we watch it mark the passing of the seasons as it grows tall and proud. In fact we have such a liking for this tree that it inspired our third child’s name! The flowers are just emerging on the tree at the moment, soon they will delight us with their heady scent. We felt we must include it in our little celebration.

It is also customary to tie ribbon to trees on May Day and it is a good day to make wishes for the season ahead. We decided to combine the Rowan, the ribbons and the wishes into our little ceremony.

For the wishes….. I found some pretty wooden heart shapes and ribbons in a local discount shop.

It was simple to punch holes in the heart (well simple for my husband once I recruited him!) and thread them with the pretty ribbons.

These would serve as our little wish tokens.

Our little May Day "wishes"
Our little May Day “wishes”


We decorated the Rowan tree with our little tokens, each making their own wish as we did so. Obviously nobody wished for good weather, because it has been raining ever since!


Decorating our "May Day Tree"
Decorating our “May Day Tree”


We then gathered sprigs from the tree to decorate and protect our home. This part really upset our youngest who did not appreciate us cutting bits off HIS tree. He was only mildly placated when he was allowed place a sprig on the windowsill of his bedroom!


Rowan to protect our home
Rowan to protect our home


It was a short and simple ceremony, but I am so glad we did it. It was lovely to get the whole family involved in deciding how we wanted to mark this special day.

If you would like a lovely craft project for Bealtaine, check out this post on the beautiful “Where Wishes Come from” blog.


Did you do anything special to mark Bealtaine? If so let us know in the comments below!


Science blogger and writer; Owner of Dr. How's Science Wows; Mother of three junior scientists who have taught me that to be a great scientist you need to look at life through the eyes of a child!

18 thoughts on “Our family celebration of Bealtaine (May Day)

  • May 11, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    What a lovely idea. It’s lovely to have your own little family celebration. I’m a big fan of Rowan trees, especially in the autumn when they are covered in bunches of red berries and the leaves are going red.

    • May 11, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      Thanks Una I really love that season for the Rowan too and it was looking out the window at the lovely red berries while pregnant on my third child that inspired his name!

  • May 9, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Great post. Imagine the memories your little ones will have. I associate may with the May altar at school. I have no religion but you have reminded me of this so I think I will make up something to get my youngest to do something around May.

    • May 9, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Thanks Tric, yes I remember the May alter in school, I don’t think they do that any more??

  • May 8, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    What a lovely post and a lovely little ceremony I hope the Rowan tree brings you every happiness in the year to come x

    • May 8, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Thank you Elizabeth, I hope it does too 🙂

  • May 8, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    What a lovely simple idea, we have a Rowan tree in our garden too, might just have to do that next year. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • May 8, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      Thank you. It is such a lovely tree to have in the garden, isn’t it?

  • May 8, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    And again I let it slip past this year. I did mentally acknowledge the day (and the weather!) It’s good to see it again.

    • May 8, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      It is a day that I have wanted to mark for years but it always seems to have slipped by for me too. I was delighted we finally did this and I hope we will be keeping it up for many years

  • May 8, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    What a lovely tradition and such a gorgeous idea to tie wishes to the tree-something that would appeal to all ages I’m sure!

    • May 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Thanks Aedin…. even with all this wind our wishes are still on the tree 🙂

  • May 8, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    How did I miss this?! Oh my goodness! What a gorgeous way to mark Bealtaine. I love it. There are a few Rowan trees in our neighbourhood, I think that next year we’ll start a stealth mission to tie wishes to them, just like yours. Gorgeous post and thanks so much for linking to mine xx

    • May 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Thank you Sadhbh, and couldn’t mention Bealtaine without linking to your post… it was a fantastic craft idea for the Festival of Fire 😉

  • May 8, 2014 at 9:25 am

    That is so lovely! Will have to do something next year. We don’t mark it at all!

    • May 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

      Thanks Lucy, I had intended to mark the day for last couple of years but this is my first time ACTUALLY doing so 🙂 it was lovely though

  • May 8, 2014 at 9:09 am

    what a lovely tradition! and the kids look so happy. I remember May day being important when we were kids but I haven’t carried through any tradition for my own kids – taking note of this for next year

    • May 8, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Thanks Office Mum, yes I think this will become a regular event for us, it was lovely to have the whole family involved

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