May Day Is Here! Dress Up, Dance & Celebrate the Arrival of Summer

May Day, known as Beltane in Gaelic, marks the beginning of summer in the Scottish Calendar. Yet some still argue that the Scots are a pessimistic nation…

Whatever the weather, traditionally life moved outdoors on 1 May after the long dark days of winter and TRACS is marking the celebration this year in traditional and new ways.

Just as Beltane Eve fires were once lit on hilltops across Scotland, the Beltane Fire Society perform a seasonal ceremony, including a wild mix of fire, drumming, dance and acrobatics, on Calton Hill on Tue 30 April, with a focus on climate change this year through the May Queen, the embodiment of the Earth. Follow the story as the May Queen awakens and transforms the Green Man from his wintery guise.

On Wed 1 May, many will watch the sun rise from Arthur’s Seat, and that evening ‘Stones of the Ancestors’ will evoke Scotland’s oldest landscape myths. Join Stuart McHardy and Douglas Scott as they launch their book, exploring Scotland’s standing stones and folklore legends, in front of the accompanying photography exhibition, on display at the Storytelling Centre until Sun 5 May.

On Sat 4 May the Edinburgh and Lothians May Day Procession will muster in Johnstone Terrace at 11.30am. This event links with International Labour Day, with the May Mummers (join in costume on the day) and processional musicians – led by Stan Reeves’ The Aye Notes – adding a splash of traditional cultural colour to the event.

On the same afternoon there is political song and declarations event Pith and Power, featuring Jenny Lindsay and Dick Gaughan. Then on Sun 5 May there is a ‘Come All Ye’ song and story ceilidh in tribute to Hamish Henderson in his centenary year, with a galaxy of Scottish folk talent including Lori Watson, Alison McMorland & Geordie MacIntyre, Nancy Nicolson and Margaret Bennett.Throughout this period Scotland’s capital is thrumming with traditional music and song through Tradfest. In addition to the music programme, partner venues including the Scottish Storytelling Centre and Edinburgh Filmhouse mount their own concurrent and complementary programming, ranging from film to spoken word, and family events.

All this creative activity puts the Traditional Arts in fresh and sometimes unexpected contexts.

Seasonal turning points such as May Day/Beltane continue to offer all Scotland’s communities ways to explore our relationship with the natural world, and to address environmental change.

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