Monday, May 1, 2023

May Day Originated in Astronomy


                                                     April showers bring May flowers !

Tulips growing in suburban Pittsburgh this Spring. (Image Source: Friends of the Zeiss; Photographer: Glenn A. Walsh)

By Glenn A. Walsh

Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Today, May 1, marks the traditional Astronomical Cross-Quarter Day Beltane, better known as May Day.

The actual Astronomical Cross-Quarter Day date varies using the modern Gregorian Calendar. This year, the actual Beltane Cross-Quarter Day occurs on Friday, 2023 May 5 at 8:25 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 12:25 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

While using the ancient Celtic Calendar, May 1 marked the traditional Beltane Cross-Quarter Day, the Gaelic May Day Festival. This festival was widely observed in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. In Wales, a similar celebration is known as Calan Mai.

The earliest known such Spring celebrations came during the Roman Republic era. The ancient Roman festival of Floralia (Festival of Flora, the Roman Goddess of Flowers) occurred around this time-of-year (April 27 to May 3).

The ancient Celtic Calendar divided the year into four Gaelic Festival, Quarter Days: Lady Day / Vernal Equinox (March 25), Mid-Summer Day / Summer Solstice (June 24), Michaelmas / Autumnal Equinox (September 29), and Christmas / Winter Solstice (December 25). Then, each Quarter (what we now call a Season) was divided into Cross-Quarter Days: Candlemas / Imbolc / Groundhog Day (February 2), Beltane / May Day (May 1), Lughnasadh / Lammas Day (August 1), and Samhain / Halloween (October 31).

The Celtic Calendar created Beltane, what we now call May Day, as the midway-point between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice. However, they called the Summer Solstice Mid-Summer, famous today in the name of the Shakespeare play, “A Mid-Summer Night's Dream”.

Beltane, in the Celtic Calendar, was actually considered the beginning of Summer. In ancient times, a Cross-Quarter Day was considered the beginning of a Season, while an Equinox or a Solstice was considered the midway-point in a Season.

Beltane or May Day was a day of agricultural celebration, as crops sown earlier were beginning to sprout. It also marked the time of year when cattle were moved to pastures for Summer grazing. The day marked rituals to protect the cattle, crops, and the parishioners.

It was also a day for young couples to pair-up. However, weddings would not be expected until the Mid-Summer Quarter Day. Even today, many weddings are planned for the month of June.

By the 20th century, Beltane customs fell out-of favor. However, Celtic Neopagans and Wiccans now celebrate customs based on Beltane as a religious holiday.

In the latter part of the 19th century, May Day became connected with the labor movement. 1889 May 1 was chosen as International Workers' Day (in some countries known as Labour Day) by the Second International to commemorate the Chicago Haymarket Riot and the struggle for an eight-hour work day.

In 1955, the Roman Catholic Church dedicated May 1 to “Saint Joseph the Worker”. Saint Joseph is considered the Patron Saint of Workers and Craftsmen, among other workers.

Completely unrelated, in the United States May 1 is also considered Law Day.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Beltane: Link >>> 

May Day: Link >>> 

International Workers' Day: Link >>> 

Law Day: Link >>>

Celtic Calendar: Link >>> 

Gregorian Calendar: Link: >>>

 Related Blog-Posts ---

"Astronomy Needed to Calculate Dates of Passover & Easter." Sun., 2023 April 2.

Link >>>

"Spring Begins at Vernal Equinox Mon. Afternoon." Fri., 2023 March 17.

Link >>>

"Daylight Saving Time Returns - Year-round?" Fri., 2023 March 10.

Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss          

               Monday, 2023 May 1.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Informal Science Educator & Communicator                                                               (For more than 50 years! - Since Monday Morning, 1972 June 12):
Link >>>
Electronic Mail: < >
Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: Link >>>
SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: Link >>>
Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), America's fifth major planetarium and Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, the fourth of only five libraries where both construction and endowment funded by famous industrialist & philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh: Link >>>  Buhl Observatory: Link >>>
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago: Link >>>
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear: Link >>>
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries: Link >>>

 * Other Walsh-Authored Blog & Web-Sites: Link >>>


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