In our last article, we shared some interesting May Day activities to honor the holiday with kids in a fun way. Today, we’ll continue our streak of dissecting the ways in which you can celebrate different Spring festivals together with your students or kids. Have you ever heard of the Beltane festival? More importantly, do you know how to celebrate Beltane with kids? Stay with us to find out.
What is Beltane?
Beltane is considered the Gaelic equivalent of the May Day festival in the US and some parts of Europe, mostly because it falls on the same day – the 1st of May. However, the significance of Beltane is different from May Day, as this holiday has deep roots in Irish mythology.
Observed in Ireland and Scotland, Beltane is mentioned in one of the earliest pieces of Irish literature as a celebration of summer and open pasture. But, it might be more accurate to say that Beltane celebrates the peak of spring and the summer that’s yet to come. This is why it’s observed halfway between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.
Keep in mind, celebrating the peak of spring and the coming of summer has deeper significance – fertility. In other words, the upcoming seasons are referred to as the fertile periods of the earth, and the transitioning process itself is symbolically called “turning of the wheel.” This is part of a bigger concept, “Wheel of the Year”, that encompasses the four Gaelic seasonal festivals (also Samhain, Imbolc, and Lughnasadh).
For Beltane, specifically, people believed that dancing rituals around a bonfire can protect the livestock while on the open pasture. Traditions also included maypole dances, cutting of green boughs and flowers, handfasting, and other rituals that promote growth, new life, and protection.
The word “Beltane” can be literally translated into “bright fire” which is why it’s no surprise that bonfire rituals are the hallmark of this holiday.
How is Beltane Celebrated
Today, celebrations differ significantly from ancient rituals. According to the Beltane Fire Society, each year a festival is being held on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland. The festival begins with a procession from the National Monument (Acropolis). People attending have a chance to see a dramatic stage performance with drum beats and many fire elements. The performance revolves around the story of the May Queen and the Green Man, and when it ends there’s music, dancing, and drinking.
How To Celebrate Beltane with Kids
While it may be interesting for kids to learn about the ancient beliefs and mysticism surrounding this holiday, showing them how to celebrate Beltane is totally another matter. Not everyone can attend the bonfire festivals, nor is it possible to organize big bonfire festivals in your local town. But, there are many other things you can do. Simple activities for kids can be equally symbolic for honoring what Beltane stands for.
In the following section, we’ll share our favorite activities for celebrating Beltane with kids.
Light a Beltane Fire
While a full-blown bonfire festival is out of the question this year, considering the situation with the pandemic, you can still light a small fire together with kids or students and celebrate with music and treats.
If you’re a homeschooling parent, you can light a small fire in the backyard. Play some cheerful music, and cook delicious s’mores for the whole family. While enjoying the warmth of the fire, discuss the history and traditions of the Beltane festival and why these kinds of rituals were important to people in the past.
On the other hand, if you’re a teacher in a school or other educational institution, see if you can light a small campfire in the school backyard in the afternoon after classes. If yes, then gather the students, give them treats, and together discuss the importance of Beltane to people in the past and the relevance it holds today.
Dance Around a Maypole
Another way to celebrate Beltane with kids, especially smaller kids, is by making a maypole and teaching kids how to dance around it. It’s an incredibly interesting activity that kids will surely enjoy! They can sing songs, dance, and wove the ribbons into complex patterns by the dancing movements.
In our article on May Day activities, we’ve actually shared a detailed explanation on how to create a maypole, so check it out if you’re interested.
In addition, a maypole dance is a great integrative activity that can represent both May Day and Beltane. Kids can learn about both celebrations with one practical activity. Our Beltane and May Day worksheet packs can help you out with that goal!
Make Gift Baskets for People in Need
Another integrative activity that binds together both May Day and Beltane is making gift baskets. However, since Beltane is more about protection and growth, we thought it would be more subtle to add a charitable dimension to it, unlike the May baskets we’ve described in our May Day article.
So, you can opt to make May Baskets with kids and gift them to family members or neighbors, or you can do a fruit and veggies basket and donate it to a charity organization or a family in need in your local town.
If you teach a class, you can actually organize students, so everyone brings something from home, and together you can make a big basket of fresh, seasonal food, herbs, and some other items.
Create Something Together
In the beginning, we talked about how the deeper significance of Beltane is actually Earth’s fertility which comes back in the spring and summer months. People in the past celebrated Beltane as a way to give thanks to the fruits and vegetables they’re blessed with during the summertime, but also for new life.
If we broadly think about new life, fertility, and productivity, then in these concepts we can include every invention and product of our own labor. Best of all, teaching kids about the value of making something with their own hands is incredibly beneficial for their future.
So, how to celebrate Beltane by creating something with kids or students?
Here are a few ideas:
- Gardening. Plant flowers, herbs, or trees. Teach kids how to take care of the soil and the growing plants. Then in a few months, together you can enjoy the fruits of that labor.
- Make a pet house. Help your child to make a house for their pet. It can be simple DIY from cardboard or elaborate projects with wood crafting. This activity is another great way of honoring Beltane as it serves as protection for the animal while out in the open.
- Create an art project. Wood crafting definitely counts as art, but you can also teach your child or students how to make a clay sculpture or other objects, how to capture meaningful moments with photography, how to express human nature through stage performance, and so on.
Camping can quickly become your family’s favorite activity. Kids will learn a lot about nature, you’ll bond as a family, and get some physical activity. Since after the winter we’re all mostly in front of our computers, this is much needed. Plus, the weather now allows it and kids will have so much to see and explore.
As a teacher, it might be challenging to organize an overnight camping trip, especially if you’re responsible for a larger class. But, together with other teachers in your school, you might think of something feasible.
On the other hand, as a homeschooling parent, organizing a camping trip could be an unforgettable experience.
If you’re a complete newbie to camping, here are a few tips:
- Decide on the optimal location – it should be safe, but still interesting. It could be around a river, forest, mountain, or village.
- Decide where you’re going to spend the night. You can set up tents or rent a cabin.
- Make sure the final location is not too far away from your starting point. Kids need to have the energy to explore the environment once they’ve set camp.
- Make sure there are suitable campground amenities in that location.
- Think about the camping activities that could be realized in that specific location.
- Plan out the whole trip in detail in advance.
- Plan meals and educational materials for every day you’re there.
Learn Kinesthetically in Nature
If you’re not ready to engage in camping, don’t worry! There’s still a way to teach kids about the importance of nature, Earth’s resources, and how the seasons influence our life. You can organize a lecture in nature where kids can learn kinesthetically.
The trick is to find a location that provides just the right opportunities for learning. For example, if you want to teach kids about the seasonal effects of spring and summer, take kids to a park where a wide variety of flora can be observed. For instance, kids can look for flowers that have just sprouted, are in the blooming cycle, have fruits, or trees that are still without leaves.
Another way for kids to learn kinesthetically in nature is to explore the soil near a river, to search for plants with specific properties, to plant flowers and set them in different locations under different weather conditions so they can learn how climate affects life, and so on.
Before You Go
As spring peeks and the weather gets warmer, we see an increase in outdoor activities, festivals, and many other different celebrations, both in the past and today. It’s normal for people to want to go out, enjoy the sun, and celebrate the summer days bringing vegetational growth. In this article, we saw how to celebrate Beltane with kids or students.
In our Beltane Facts and Worksheet pack, you can find further, in-depth information about the holiday, for building a full lesson plan on this unit. And, if you’re interested in other upcoming seasonal celebrations, head up to our Spring and Summer sections.
Aside from the support that you can get from our teaching resources found in our worksheet library, we want to remind you to also check out our blog. We’ve shared insightful guides, “how-to” articles, and many other articles on seasonal events, trending practices in education, and current issues that all teachers and homeschooling parents are facing when educating children.
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