Here’s how they celebrate Beltane in Edinburgh!
First organized in the 1980’s, the Beltane Fire Festival has become a popular festival in Edinburgh. Here we have photos of the Beltane Fire Society celebrating Spring and the coming of summer. This lively procession celebrates the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane which is the Gaelic name for the month of May. More about Beltane can be found here: Beltane
The Easter Fire is a custom of pagan origin spread all over Europe. It is a symbol of victory, the victory of beautiful and sunny spring over the cold days of winter.
On Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday, in rare occasions also on Easter Monday, large fires are lit at dusk in numerous sections of Northwestern Europe. These regions include Denmark, parts of Sweden as well as in Finland, Northern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
The fire is lit usually on the top of the mountains – Easter mountain, Osterberg – and it is obtained from wood by friction. In Germany, the Easter fire is created by gathering all the Christmas trees and burning them into a huge fire, a sign for everyone to leave behind winter and prepare for spring.
Though not documented before the 16th century, the custom presumably is based on Saxon, pre-Christian traditions, that are still performed each year. There are several explanations of the meaning of these fires. The Saxons believed that around the time of Easter, Spring becomes victorious over Winter. The fires were to help chase the darkness and winter away. It was also a symbol of fertility, which works in a literal sense in that the ashes were scattered over the meadows and thereby fertilized the soil.
The pre-Christian meaning of Easter fires is hardly experienced anymore. Nowadays they are meant to bring the community together, which guarantees a pleasant night combined with the consumption of beer, mulled wine or liquor, and snacks.
This is the name given to two festivals held in ancient Boeotia, which was a part of Greece, in honor of the reconciliation of Hera and Zeus. The dates of these festivals are somewhat nebulous and varied from place to place and year to year. One source cites March 10th.
According to the myth, Hera and Zeus quarreled and Hera went away to Euboea and refused to return to his bed. To trick her into coming back and on the advice of Cithaeron, Zeus dressed up a carved oak-trunk to resemble a bride and let it be known that he planned to marry Plataea, the daughter of Asopus. Hera was so angry she tore the clothes from the statue, discovered the deception, and was so pleased that the two were reconciled.
The Lesser Daedala (Δαίδαλα μικρά) was held every four to six years. The people of Plataea went to an ancient oak grove and exposed pieces of cooked meat to ravens, attentively watching upon which tree any of the birds, after taking a piece of meat, would settle. Out of this tree they carved an image, and having it dressed as a bride, they set it on a bullock cart with a bridesmaid beside it. The image seems then to have been drawn to the bank of the river Asopus and back to the town, attended by a cheering crowd.
After fourteen of these cycles (approx.59 or 60 years), the Greater Daedala (Δαίδαλα μεγάλα) was held, and all Boeotia joined in the celebration. At its start one wooden figure was chosen from the many that had accumulated through the years and designated the “bride”. The wooden figure was prepared as a bride for a wedding, ritually bathed in the Asopus, adorned and raised on a wagon with an attendant. This wagon led a procession of wains carrying the accumulated daedala (all the other images that had been created over the years) up to the summit of Mount Kithairon, where a wooden sacrificial altar was erected out of square pieces of wood.
This was covered with a quantity of dry wood, and the towns, persons of rank, and other wealthy individuals, offered each a heifer to Hera and a bull to Zeus with plenty of wine and incense, while at the same time all of the daedala were placed upon the altar. For those who did not possess sufficient means, it was customary to offer small sheep, but all these offerings were immolated in a hecatomb in the same manner as those of the wealthier persons. The fire consumed both offerings and altar
An ancient account of myth behind the festival is related by Pausanias:
“Hera, they say, was for some reason or other angry with Zeus, and had retreated to Euboia. Zeus, failing to make her change her mind, visited Kithairon, at that time despot in Plataea, who surpassed all men for his cleverness. So he ordered Zeus to make an image of wood, and to carry it, wrapped up, in a bullock wagon, and to say that he was celebrating his marriage with Plataia, the daughter of Asopus. So Zeus followed the advice of Kithairon.
Hera heard the news at once, and at once appeared on the scene. But when she came near the wagon and tore away the dress from the image, she was pleased at the deceit, on finding it a wooden image and not a bride, and was reconciled to Zeus. To commemorate this reconciliation they celebrate a festival called Daidala, because the men of old time gave the name of daidala to wooden images… the Plataeans hold the festival of the Daidala every six years, according to the local guide, but really at a shorter interval.
I wanted very much to calculate exactly the interval between one Daedala and the next, but I was unable to do so. In this way they celebrate the feast.”
Found at Wikipedia
Up Helly Aa refers to any of a variety of fire festivals held in Shetland, in Scotland, annually in the middle of winter to mark the end of the yule season and celebrate the arrival of the Vikings. Traditionally held on the last Tuesday in January, the festival involves a procession of up to a thousand guizers in Lerwick and considerably lower numbers in the more rural festivals, formed into squads who march through the town or village in a variety of themed costumes.
The current Lerwick celebration grew out of the older yule tradition of tar barreling which took place at Christmas and New Year as well as Up Helly-Aa. After the abolition of tar barreling, permission was eventually obtained for torch processions. The first yule torch procession took place in 1876. The first torch celebration on Up Helly-Aa day took place in 1881. The following year the torch lit procession was significantly enhanced and institutionalized through a request by a Lerwick civic body to hold another Up Helly-Aa torch procession for the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh. The first galley was burned in 1889.
There is a main guizer who is dubbed the “Jarl”. There is a committee which you must be part of for fifteen years before you can be a jarl, and only one person is elected to this committee each year.
The procession culminates in the torches being thrown into a replica Viking longship or galley. The event happens all over Shetland, but it is only the Lerwick galley which is not sent seaward. Everywhere else, the galley is sent seabound, in an echo of legendary Viking sea burials.
After the procession, the squads visit local halls (including schools, sports facilities and hotels), where private parties are held. At each hall, each squad performs its act, which may be a send-up of a popular TV show or film, a skit on local events, or singing or dancing, usually in flamboyant costume.
Due to the often-flamboyant costumes and the large quantity of males dressing up as females (Traditionally, the Capital festival does not permit women to partake in the squads) in the Lerwick festival, it has earned the joke name ‘Transvestite Tuesday’. The photos below show a few examples of the festival’s highlights.
Bonfire Night is a name given to various annual celebrations characterized by bonfires and fireworks. The event celebrates different traditions on different dates, depending on the country. Some of the most popular instances include the following:
- Walpurgis Night – Apr 30 – Scandinavia
- St John’s Eve – Jun 23 – Ireland, Spain, Northern Portugal
- Eleventh Night – Jul 11 – Northern Ireland
- Feast of the Assumption – Aug 15 – Northern Ireland
- Guy Fawkes Night – Nov 5 – in Great Britain, Newfoundland and Labrador
Note: This is by no means a complete list of celebrations referred to as “Bonfire Night.”
In Great Britain, Bonfire Night is associated with the tradition of celebrating the failure of Guy Fawkes’ actions on 5 November 1605. The British festival is, therefore, on 5 November, although some commercially driven events are held at a weekend near to the correct date, to maximize attendance.
Also known as:
- Bonfire Night
- Guy Fawkes Day
- Firework Night
Bonfire night’s sectarian significance has generally been lost: it is now usually just a night of revelry with a bonfire and fireworks, although an effigy of Guy Fawkes is burned on the fire. Celebrations are held throughout Great Britain; in some non-Catholic communities in Northern Ireland; and in some other parts of the Commonwealth. In the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, 5 November is commemorated with bonfires and firework displays, and it is officially celebrated in South Africa.
There are many food items that are associated with Bonfire Night. Toffee apples, treacle toffee, black peas and parkin, and even the jacket potato, are traditionally eaten around Bonfire Night in parts of England.
This Day in History
The history of this annual commemoration begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London; and months later, the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.
Within a few decades Gunpowder Treason Day, as it was known, became the predominant English state commemoration, but as it carried strong Protestant religious overtones it also became a focus for anti-Catholic sentiment. Puritans delivered sermons regarding the perceived dangers of popery, while during increasingly raucous celebrations common folk burnt effigies of popular hate-figures, such as the pope.
Towards the end of the 18th century reports appear of children begging for money with effigies of Guy Fawkes and 5 November gradually became known as Guy Fawkes Day. Towns such as Lewes and Guildford were in the 19th century scenes of increasingly violent class-based confrontations, fostering traditions those towns celebrate still, albeit peaceably.
In the 1850s changing attitudes resulted in the toning down of much of the day’s anti-Catholic rhetoric, and the Observance of 5th November Act was repealed in 1859. Eventually the violence was dealt with, and by the 20th century Guy Fawkes Day had become an enjoyable social commemoration, although lacking much of its original focus. The present-day Guy Fawkes Night is usually celebrated at large organised events, centered on a bonfire and extravagant firework displays.
Settlers exported Guy Fawkes Night to overseas colonies, including some in North America, where it was known as Pope Day. Those festivities died out with the onset of the American Revolution. Claims that Guy Fawkes Night was a Protestant replacement for older customs like Samhain are disputed, although another old celebration, Halloween, has lately increased in popularity, and according to some writers, may threaten the continued observance of 5 November.
One notable aspect of the Victorians’ commemoration of Guy Fawkes Night was its move away from the centers of communities, to their margins. Gathering wood for the bonfire increasingly became the province of working-class children, who solicited combustible materials, money, food and drink from wealthier neighbors, often with the aid of songs. Most opened with the familiar “Remember, remember, the fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot”.
The earliest recorded rhyme, from 1742, is reproduced below along with one bearing similarities to most Guy Fawkes Night ditties, recorded in 1903 at Charlton on Otmoor:
Don’t you Remember,
The Fifth of November,
‘Twas Gunpowder Treason Day,
I let off my gun,
And made’em all run.
And Stole all their Bonfire away.
The fifth of November, since I can remember,
Was Guy Faux, Poke him in the eye,
Shove him up the chimney-pot, and there let him die.
A stick and a stake, for King George’s sake,
If you don’t give me one, I’ll take two,
The better for me, and the worse for you,
Ricket-a-racket your hedges shall go.
When told by Roman officials to surrender the church’s valuables, St. Lawrence brought the city’s poor and sick. “Here is the church’s treasure,” he said. Rome didn’t find this amusing, and legend says he was put to death in A.D. 258 by being roasted on a grate, although some scholars say he was more likely beheaded. In either case, folks in southern Europe still mark this day.
- It is customary there to eat only cold meat in recognition of the reputed manner of his death.
- Fair weather on St. Lawrence’s Day presages a fair autumn.
In the book 365 Goddess, she has some different ideas about how to celebrate St Lawrence day. They are as follows:
Bonfires of Saint John is a popular festival celebrated around June 24, (Saint John’s day) in several towns in Spain. For this festival, people gather together and create large bonfires from any kind of wood, such as old furniture, and share hot chocolate while teens and children jump over the fires.
A pie of tuna (coca anb tonyina) and early figs (bacores) is traditionally eaten while setting up the events.
The festival is celebrated throughout many cities and towns; however, the largest and most elaborate version is in Alicante. On the night of St John, gigantic (20 to 30 foot high) explosive caricatures (ninots) are paraded through the streets and exploded in a spectacular finale with fireworks and pyrotechnics, making this festival into the most important (and loudest!) cultural event in Alicantinian society.
Collected from various sources
St Sara of Egypt is the Romanies’ patron saint. Throughout the eve of May 24 and during May 25th, Gypsies exalt the elements of fire and water. From wood the men have gathered, Gypsy women build a healthy campfire. They cook a huge feast and gather around the fire to exchange presents and good cheer.
On May 24th many Romanies still make a pilgrimage to attend an annual service at the shrine of St Sara of Egypt, in the crypt of the church of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Ile de la Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhone, France. They carry the statue of St. Sara, who is black, into the sea (from where she originated) and out again.
From: The Good Spell Book
To celebrate the New Year fireballs swing in Stonehaven, Scotland.
The ceremony consists of mainly local people of all ages swinging flaming wire cages, around their heads. Each cage is filled with combustible material (each swinger has their own recipe) and has a wire handle two or three feet long, this keeps the flames well away from the swinger, but spectators can be vulnerable! At the end of the ceremony, the fireballs are tossed into the bay.
The event starts at midnight and is watched by thousands. The idea behind the ceremony is to burn off the bad spirits left from the old year so that the spirits of the New Year can come in clean and fresh.
From current research the ceremony would seem to go back from a hundred to a hundred and fifty years, but it could easily be much older.
The ceremony today lasts only around twenty to thirty minutes but in the past it could last an hour or more. Then, some of the swingers would swing their fireball for a few yards and then stop outside a house that was occupied by someone that they knew. They would drop their fireball at the curbside and pop in for their ‘New Year’! After a while they would come out, pick up their ‘ball’ and swing on down to the next house, and so on. As quite a number of the swingers would have had many relatives and friends staying in area it could take some time to get from one end of the street to the other!
In the early years, according to the newspaper reports, it would seem that it was mainly the male youths of the older ‘fisher’ town that were involved in the custom but once into the sixties the newspaper reports are of older men and women being involved as well.