"Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight, Or he would call it a sin; But--we have been out in the woods all night, A-conjuring Summer in! And we bring you news by word of mouth- Good news for cattle and corn-- Now is the Sun come up from the South, With Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!"
Excerpt from "A Tree Song" by Rudyard Kipling
I am not sure when you all celebrate, there are so many dates or times to go from besides the first of May. Beltane O.S. (old style) comes to mind and is supposed to be May 5th (thus you would celebrate the eve. before). There are other, more accurate, ways of determining the exact date, which you can probably find elsewhere on the net.
Our calendars are solar, and not the lunar ones of our ancestors, on top of that, the calendar dates have been switched around, so pinning down the actual date of any of the holidays can be tricky and is debated by many...
"The Julian year is, therefore, on average 365.25 days long. It was intended to approximate the tropical (solar) year.... the calendar year gained about three days every four centuries compared to observed equinox times and the seasons. This discrepancy was corrected by the Gregorian reform of 1582...The Julian calendar is currently 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar; for instance, 1 January in the Julian calendar is 14 January in the Gregorian."
(Julian Calendar )
In case there is confusion (and there probably is), we are currently using the Gregorian calendar. You can see why there might be discrepancies.
So why all the fuss? Does it matter when the actual date is (and is date the appropriate term)? And what is it we are celebrating anyway? Are we anticipating Spring, or are we celebrating its arrival? I think this would be less complicated if we were a less barbaric society, and had more holidays. We know Christmas used to be a holiday spanning at least 12 days (now whittled down to just one day off work if we are lucky). Why not a week or more of Beltane? If we had a week or more, we could use the knowledge we have of the Sabbats plus the natural signs around us, to begin celebrating, and finish with the biggest Bang at the appropriate time. Some traditions dictate (and this obviously depends on where you live) that the Hawthorne tree in bloom be used as a definitive sign that Beltane has arrived.
I'm not really interested in telling you all the tales behind the holidays. There are other websites out there that have done this job quite nicely. Try the link below if you'd like to know more about Beltane traditions.
( Beltane Traditions and Associations )
Another good place to read about Holidays below
(Mike Nichols' Witches Sabbats )
Note: Mike explains that witches in the U.S. may call Beltane "Lady Day" but that this has traditionally been appropriate for Ostara... good to know!
For myself, I've never had the privilege to watch and see when the hawthorne was blooming (and if it was around the same time as the violets here in the Midwest), but I suspect that the violets bloom around the same time here.
For myself, I like the little saying "when the violets appear, Beltane is near." Note the wording "near" because violets on a more normal year, can appear many years in early to mid April.
One of the older times to celebrate may have been the first full moon after May first.
In the Orthodox church (which uses an older calendar system) Easter is figured in relation to the first Sunday after the First full moon, after passover. This year, Orthodox Easter (our Ostara equivalent) is even later than usual, this coming Sunday...Interesting to note, since Spring this year, has been so long in coming.
With all the calendar confusion, it seems we may need to make a rethink about our holidays. Signs like the Hawthorne will be of particular importance because of climate change.
But back to the question...why do we care when it is? Why did our ancestors care? My apologies if this is stating the obvious for some...
Our ancestors depended on very specific timing for the planting and harvesting of crops, saving seeds, birthing and culling of herds, and hunting/fishing. All of these things had to go by the specific rhythm of the earth. If they missed the timing, everyone could starve. Farmers today still have to pay more specific attention to this than the rest of us, but since most of us no longer farm, we are separated from it.
I feel it important to be in tune with the seasons, and to assess when the most accurate time for doing that is. Our job right now in keeping the holidays is largely psychological. After Winter, we need that day (really we need a couple weeks!) to cut loose and tell ourselves Spring has arrived. In the far future though, who can tell what our children's children may need? The timing for agriculture, or looking for eggs in the spring could be paramount to their survival. Anything we can pass on to our offspring, any knowledge is power and survival.
love and light,