Bealtaine is part of the Gaelic seasonal festivals, alongside its counterparts Imbolg, Lughnasadh and Samhain.
An ancient pagan festival celebrated on 1 May, it marks the beginning of summer. Of course, as Gaeilge, Bealtaine also refers to the month of May.
Fire traditionally is an important symbol and aspect of Bealtaine. Fires were lit, some think, to symbolise the returning of the sun for the summer months.
Uisneach, centred on the Hill of Uisneach in Co Westmeath, offer tours on the mythology, history, archaeology and built heritage sewn into the hill. They also operate a visitor centre and run the Bealtaine Fire Celebration.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming event.
The Bealtaine Fire Celebration takes place on Saturday 7 May from 4:30pm to 11:30pm.
The event takes place on the Hill of Uisneach.
The 2022 Bealtaine Fire Celebration on Uisneach will include heritage talks, art, culture, music, fire-dancing, talks, workshops, well-being, yoga, story-telling, children's fun and food, before the great Bealtaine fire is lit at sundown.
History of Uisneach
According to Bealtaine Fire Celebration organisers: “One of the most enduring legends of Uisneach is that it was the location for the first great fire lit in Ireland. According to the Dindshenchas (Lore of Places), the fire was lit by a druid named Míde and burned on the hill for seven years.
“As the centuries progressed, the great fire became the catalyst for the Bealtaine festival; an annual gathering and fair at Uisneach that continued to early modern times.
"Traditionally, the fires in every home and hearth across Ireland would be extinguished in anticipation of a new flame from Uisneach’s Bealtaine fire.
“Fires were then ignited on the other sacred hills of Ireland created a unique ‘fire eye’ over the island; symbolising the country’s emergence from the darkness of winter into the light of summer.”
About the festival
In 2009, the festival was revived on the Hill of Uisneach. In 2017, the ceremonial flame was lit by President Michael D Higgins.
More information and tickets are available here.