Beltane Fire Festival

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Every year, tourists and locals flock to this Gaelic festival in Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland, to witness an old tradition of celebrating fire.

Beltane means “bright fire,” and this festival is a celebration of the beginning of summer, happening at night on the last day of April and prolonging into the early hours of the 1st of May. Traditionally, it is a symbolic gesture to recall the power of the sun and chase away the darkness of the winter indoor months. It was a long-lost traditional by the 19th century, but rekindled by a group of cultural enthusiasts in 1988.

Beltane Fire Festival is a modern version of this tradition. The fire extravagance is led by a procession of May Queen and her counterpart, the Green Man. The queen would bless earthly elements such as water along her procession path, and eventually reach summer towards the end of her route. Drum sounds, music, fire shows and physical theatre performances make this fire festival a spectacular event. There is naked dancing, eating, drinking, and a lot of fire playing.

[photos courtesy of Beltane Fire Society]