Calan Mai, also known as Calan Haf, is the annual celebration of the first day of summer in Welsh culture. It is celebrated on the first day of May, as the name suggests. Several superstitions and rituals that date back to druidic periods are still observed on this day, making it an important occasion for celebration and festivities in Wales. May Eve festivities commence with bonfires. The night before (Welsh: Nos Galan Haf) is considered a ‘Ysbrydnos’ or “spirit night,” when spirits are active and divination is possible. Until the middle of the 19th century, South Wales observed this anniversary annually by lighting bonfires. Calan Mai is comparable to Beltane and other European May Day celebrations.
The background of Calan Mai
The history of Calan Mai is comparable to that of May Day, Beltane Fire Festival, and Walpurgis Night. According to ancient beliefs, this was the day when the boundaries between this world and the world of spirits blurred, resulting in a magnificent celebration of all things evil. As it is believed that evil spirits detest smoke and loud noises, the custom of lighting massive bonfires and loudly celebrating became a staple of the occasion. Due to its connection to the preternatural in Welsh mythology, Calan Mai was also a popular time for divination. The first of May was therefore the ideal time to discover the identity of your genuine love. Additionally, the day is distinguished by the hawthorn decorations used to adorn the exteriors of residences.
Calan Mai commemorated the approach of spring and the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. It signalled the beginning of a period of copious harvests for the ancient Welsh farmers, who were ecstatic. It was also the time of year when hibernating animals emerged. Consequently, some farmers would honour the day their cattle began seasonal grazing in the forest. In ancient times, the first day of May signified the beginning of a new spring, the end of a harsh winter, and the arrival of warm weather. People frequently engaged in dancing, chanting, and feasting to commemorate the pleasure of summer warmth.
The Calan Mai Festival incorporates all of these ancient traditions and is still celebrated in Wales in the same manner as always.
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CALAN MAI DATES