Happy May Day!

A celebration of Life, Springtime, and the coming of Summer!

Dandelions stretching across my field always tell me that Spring is well underway!

May Day is a longstanding celebration recognizing the height of spring, the coming of Summer, and acknowledging the life bursting forth all around us.

May Day, or the First of May, is sometimes referred to as the cross-quarter day of Beltane. But they are not the same.

I’ve been celebrating May Day since I was a little girl. In Kindergarten in P.S. 16 in the Bronx, NY we danced the maypole and had a May Day parade.

For the last two decades of my life, I’ve celebrated Beltane as the Cross-Quarter day, but also as a spiritual celebration, honoring the union of Goddess and God and the creation of Life and abundance in our lives. We hold gatherings (sometimes large, lately small) where we dance the May Pole, Jump the Fire and sing, dance, and drum around the fire.

However you celebrate, or which ever date you choose to celebrate, remember to surround yourself with people who love and appreciate you, who are like-minded, and who bring you happiness. And who like to have a good time!

Quarter and Cross-Quarter Days!

There are four cross-quarter days in the calendar year, marking the mid-point between the equinoxes and solstices.

The two equinoxes are the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes, also known as “First Day of Spring” and “First Day of Fall.” These days are equally long/short, and provide twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness each year.

The two solstices mark the Sun’s peak and low point, traditionally heralding the coming of Summer and the coming of Winter. These are the longest (summer) and shortest (winter)days of the year.

Equinoxes and Solstices (Quarter Days) fluctuate slightly, but usually are recognized on or around the same dates each year. The following are the dates for Quarter Days in 2023:

  1. March 20: The Vernal Equinox, marking the First Day of Spring, or Ostara.
  2. September 23: The Autumnal Equinox, or First Day of Autumn, or Mabon.
  3. June 21: Summer Solstice, First Day of Summer, or Litha.
  4. December 21: Winter Solstice, First Day of Winter, sometimes called Yule.

Cross-quarter days mark the midpoints between each equinox/solstice. These fluctuate slightly. Equinoxes and Solstices divide the year up into four sections, or the seasons as we know them (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) and are as follows:

  1. Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. (Imbolc)
  2. Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. (Beltane)
  3. Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. (Lughnasadh)
  4. Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. (Samhain)

All eight of these Quarter and Cross-Quarter days were at some point and some way recognized by our ancestors in an effort to survive. Different cultures recognized some of them or all of them depending on the culture. They planned, planted, and harvested by these dates, marking the cycles of the seasons with celebrations, traditions, and chores.

Many Pagans (myself included) call these eight dates “The Wheel of the Year.” Some paths only recognize the four Quarter days, some only recognize the dark half of the year and light half of the year.

Securing Cross-Quarter Dates!

Some Pagans use the name Beltane (one of various spellings) to recognize May Day. Beltane and May Day are two different events. May Day is not the Cross-Quarter Day, even though many celebrate Beltane on May Day. You can hold your gathering for your Beltane Celebration on May Day for convenience sake, but keep in mind, Beltane and the cross-quarter day actually comes a few days later.

This year, depending on where you live on this Earth, Beltane (or the mid-point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice) is somewhere around May 5 or 6.

While the solstices and equinoxes are traditionally recognized on their actual astronomically occurring days, for some reason (probably convenience) the cross-quarter days are not. And this is a pet peeve of mine (sorry, not sorry!).

I’m hard-pressed to find any information regarding the actual MID-POINT between these important dates. All I kept getting was the recently recognized dates for the cross-quarter days. Modern times, people celebrate them on designated days rather than the mid-points. Even information explaining what cross-quarter days are usually list these set dates as the cross-quarter days, and don’t even mention the actual mid-points or how to determine what the mid-points are.

February 2, (Groundhog Day in the USA) has long been a date acknowledging the Goddess Brighid, and then the Catholic Saint, Saint Brigid. It was also called Candlemas (another Christian association). This year, the actual crossquarter date was February 3 but in years past has been as late as February 6 or 7.

May 1, First of May, is known as Beltane. But this year, the cross-quarter day falls on May 5 or 6 depending on if you follow True Sun or Mean Sun calculations. But for some reason, Beltane has usually been celebrated on May 1 throughout the ages.

Lammas , or Lughnasadh, is recognized as August 1, commemorating the harvest of grain crops, but this year the cross-quarter day is actually August 7.

Finally, the fourth cross-quarter day of the year is Samhain. SAMHAIN (pronounced SOW-WHEN). Halloween is not a cross-quarter day. Samhain is NOT Halloween, and is NOT recognized on October 31. The actual cross quarter day of Samhain usually the first week in November. This year it falls on November 7.

Regardless of the hemisphere you live in (May 1 is Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere), may you enjoy these holidays as they connect you to our Mother Earth, your communities, and the celebrations of life our ancestors have recognized since the beginning of time!

Happy May Day and Blessed Beltane!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.