You don’t need to look far for a reason to party like a Celt. With eight sacred days in addition to the typical Church holidays like Christmas and Easter, Celts are always either planning a party or recovering from one. Here’s the yearly run-down for special occasions to celebrate: February 1 – St. Brigid’s Day, marking the beginning of Spring March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day, also the Vernal Equinox May 1 – Bealtine, or May Day, marking the beginning of Summer June 21 – Summer Solstice mid-August – Lughnasa, marking the beginning of harvest September 21 – Autumnal Equinox October 31-November 2 – Samhain, marking the sacred period between All Hallow’s Eve and All Souls Day December 21 – Winter Solstice But you don’t need to wait for a special day to host a celebration. Put out the invites for a “céilidh” (“a visit” or kitchen party), a féis (festival), a luadhadh (a milling frolic) or a bogadh (an immersion dance) and you can party like a Celt any old day of the year. Just make sure you have the appropriate food, drink, stories, and music on hand. Invite your favorite harpist, fiddler or bagpiper. Fire up the kettle with an Irish stew or colcannon. Break out your finest Irish whiskey and chill the glasses for the Guinness. Tell your favorite Celtic story, or just throw such a great party that it becomes the stuff of legend itself.
May 1st is a new quarter day in the Celtic calendar – Beltaine (say BYEL-tin-uh) – a fire festival to celebrate “the force that drives the green fuse through the flower,” to quote Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. It’s a time of brilliance and heat. It was on Betaine that St Patrick lit a fire on the Hill of Slane near Tara in defiance of the High King as a sign of the New Faith succeeding the old religion.