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May Day Celebrations Glastonbury
24 Apr 2023

May Day Celebrations in Glastonbury

Join the dragon procession on the High street and witness the ceremony at Tor Fair Field during the May Day celebrations in Glastonbury.

The May Day celebrations in Glastonbury honour the historical traditions of this spring festival. The earliest records of maypole celebrations date to the 14th century, and by the 15th century the maypole tradition was well established in southern Britain. The early May bank holiday on the first Monday in May was created in 1978. May Day was abolished and its celebration banned by Puritan parliaments during the Interregnum, but reinstated with the restoration of Charles II in 1660. English May Day traditions and celebrations include crowning a May Queen or dancing around a maypole circle with ribbons. Historically, Morris dancing has been linked to May Day celebrations.

Here in Glastonbury traditional celebrations of the Celtic festival of Beltane (Beltain) are observed. This year 2023 sees 10 days of celebrations (visit our Facebook page for more information).

When are the main May Day celebrations in Glastonbury?

On Saturday 30th April Glastonbury Red and White Dragons will appear. The dragon procession takes place on the High street from 1.30 up to the Tor Fair Field for a ceremony.

Monday May 1st is Beltane

Beltane, the ancient pagan fertility festival welcomes summer; Monday May 1st Beltane Fire ceremony with drummers at Chalice Well gardens 7am. Beltane is one of the great fire festivals of our ancient past, when bonfires were lit on the hill tops and communities gathered together to feast, party, stay up all night and welcome in the dawn. Beltane, is a celebration of the beginning of summer and the power of the life force.

Bards and music and the Market cross from 10 am.

At midday the Green men will accompany the new May king and queen in the centre of town with the maypole for a blessing at the White Spring followed by the raising of the maypole at Bushy Combe with music and merry making.

The Hawthorn or May tree is associated with Beltane, with fertility and with faerie and nature spirits, and even when growing in towns they still retain the spirit of the wild places. You can visit the Glastonbury Holy Thorn tree (a species of Hawthorn) in the garden of Glastonbury Information Centre, St Dunstan’s House in the town centre. Members of the Pilgrim Reception team will be able to tell you more about this festival and the Wheel of the Year. Another name for the Hawthorn is the ‘Bread and Cheese Tree’. This refers to the young leaves and leaf buds which, it is said, can be eaten straight from the tree or added to salads.

Many villages and towns across England celebrate with different traditions; Kingsbury Episcopi, Somerset, has seen its annual May Day Festival celebrations increase in popularity in recent years, since it was reinstated 21 years ago. Padstow in Cornwall holds its annual Obby-Oss (Hobby Horse) day of festivities. This is believed to be one of the oldest fertility rites in the UK when revellers dance with the Oss through the streets of the town.

Further information about events in Glastonbury can be found on our Facebook page.

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