Calan Mai (U.K.) 2023: Calan Mai, also known as Calan Haf, is the annual celebration of the first day of summer in Welsh culture. It is celebrated on the first day of May, as the name suggests. Several superstitions and rituals that date back to druidic periods are still observed on this day, making it an important occasion for celebration and festivities in Wales. May Eve festivities commence with bonfires. The night before (Welsh: Nos Galan Haf) is considered a ‘Ysbrydnos’ or “spirit night,” when spirits are active and divination is possible. Until the middle of the 19th century, South Wales observed this anniversary annually by lighting bonfires. Calan Mai is comparable to Beltane and other European May Day celebrations.
HISTORY OF CALAN MAI
The history of Calan Mai is comparable to that of May Day, Beltane Fire Festival, and Walpurgis Night. According to ancient beliefs, this was the day when the boundaries between this world and the world of spirits blurred, resulting in a magnificent celebration of all things evil. As it is believed that evil spirits detest smoke and loud noises, the custom of lighting massive bonfires and loudly celebrating became a staple of the occasion. Due to its connection to the preternatural in Welsh mythology, Calan Mai was also a popular time for divination. The first of May was therefore the ideal time to discover the identity of your genuine love. Additionally, the day is distinguished by the hawthorn decorations used to adorn the exteriors of residences.
Calan Mai commemorated the approach of spring and the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. It signalled the beginning of a period of copious harvests for the ancient Welsh farmers, who were ecstatic. It was also the time of year when hibernating animals emerged. Consequently, some farmers would honour the day their cattle began seasonal grazing in the forest. In ancient times, the first day of May signified the beginning of a new spring, the end of a harsh winter, and the arrival of warm weather. People frequently engaged in dancing, chanting, and feasting to commemorate the pleasure of summer warmth.
The Calan Mai Festival incorporates all of these ancient traditions and is still celebrated in Wales in the same manner as always.
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HOW TO OBSERVE CALAN MAI
embellish your residence
On the evening of May 1st, locals gathered flowers and branches to decorate their homes and commemorate growth and fertility. You could similarly participate in the festivities.
Participate in summer dancing
On May mornings, singers accompanied by harpists or fiddlers would tour homes to share their seasonal joy with the locals. If their singing was regarded worthy, they would receive food, wine, and possibly cash.
Try the cuisine
Metheglin and mead were popular beverages during Calan Mai festivities. Herbs such as woodruff, a sweet-smelling plant commonly used in traditional viticulture, were frequently employed in its preparation.
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5 FACTS ABOUT WALES
Wales has more castles per square mile than any other nation on earth.
The names of the towns are lengthy. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllantysiliogogogoch is the second-longest place name in the globe.
Named Mount Everest after a Welshman
Sir George Everest surveyed Mount Everest for the first time and gave it the name Everest.
The highest peak in Wales
Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa) is the highest peak in Wales at 1,085 metres (3,560 feet).
Most frequent waterfall
Swallow Falls near Betws-y-coed is the most frequented waterfall in Britain.
WHY CALAN MAI IS IMPORTANT
It inaugurates the summer season.
On May Day, numerous activities would take place. Households would relocate from their valley (Hendre) homes to their summer pastures on higher ground (the Hafod) in order to pasture their cattle.
It bestows good fortune
According to legend, carol singers would visit each residence in May, bringing good fortune to each family they visited. After the hardships of winter, they would wish them a productive summer.
Dispel demonic spirits
In druidic periods, May 1 was associated with the lighting of fires. Bonfires would ward off malevolent spirits, guarantee a prosperous summer, and provide an opportunity for purification and disease prevention — a more intense form of spring cleaning!
CALAN MAI DATES