Celebrating Bealtaine – A Festival of Growth and Creativity

May 16, 2012

The following poem was written by Fourth Class students attending Scoil Mhuire na Trocaire, Ardee.

My Wonderful Garden

Alone in my garden watching the wonders around me.

I see the birds flying, the squirrels running and climbing.

I smell the grass, fresh air and flowers.

I hear the birds, the wind surrounding me and the laughing of children next door.

I feel the grass at my feet, the wind blowing at my neck.

The nature in my garden is my own personal wonder!

Two primary schools in County Louth, St. Peter’s National School (Dromiskin) and Scoil Mhuire na Trocaire National School (Ardee) have celebrated the traditional Irish festival of Bealtaine during the course of planting flowers for biodiversity. The tradition of decorating a May Bough (a branch of Rowan or Hawthorn), to bring luck to new gardens growing in Spring, has been re-enacted by students from both schools.

To mark the occasion students of St. Peter’s National School planted bee and butterfly friendly flowers in their intergenerational garden and outdoor classroom. They also lighted a flying lantern to symbolise the Bealtaine Fire. This lantern was lit during lunch time, and the students hoped it would travel to Newfoundland, Canada where descendants of Irish immigrants still decorate May Branches to protect new crops and celebrate the warmth and sunlight of the growing season.

In Ireland the month of May has long been celebrated to mark the start of new growth,  longer days, warmth, and the return of new leaves and flowers. It is also signifies the mid-way point between the Spring Equinox in March and the Summer Solstice in June. The time of Bealtaine inspires acts of caring for nature.

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Students of Scoil Mhuire na Trocaire National School planted traditional cottage garden flowers at the Moorehall Retirement Village (Ardee, County Louth) to mark Ireland’s Bealtaine Festival, which “celebrates creativity as we age”. The Bealtaine Festival co-ordinated by Age and Opportunity is a national celebration of creativity which takes place during the month of May. Fourth Class students are also decorating rocks to place in the new garden, with words describing biodiversity themes, and also words which together create a feeling of sanctuary and peace.

In her book, Trees of Inspiration, Christine Zucchelli has written about many traditions in Ireland, which mark the veneration of trees. Particular trees have many symbolic associations to pilgrimage and recovery. Often specific trees were closely situated near holy wells, offering cures, sanctuary and the possibility of overcoming personal challenges. Adorning these trees are pieces of fabric, or small personal tokens of appreciation, left behind to acknowledge the tree’s potential to transform maladies into well being. Leaving something of one’s self behind also honours the spirit of the place, a space in nature set aside from everyday life. A small personal offering in exchange for good health and good luck, represents how a tree may take on the afflictions of both body and mind. Certain trees were considered mediums of transformation, with their ability to absorb all kinds of troubles and offering in their place, a certain level of contentment and health. Ireland’s cultural history has a link to the reverence of trees, which offer refuge and renewal.

 

 


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