The May Day Customs Project

The National Museum of Ireland-Country Life in Castlebar, Co. Mayo is calling on Wicklow prople to support a May Day Customs online heritage project. 

‘As in much of northern Europe, May Day in Ireland was a celebration and welcome of the summer. Here, it is rooted in the pre-Christian festival of Bealtaine. Bealtaine embraces the summer, bidding farewell to the dark winter half of the year. Flowers, dancing, and bonfires featured strongly in the festivities. People also sought protection for themselves, their homes and livestock against supernatural forces … Traditions associated with May include May Bushes, May Flowers, May Boughs, May Poles and May Bonfires. All are associated with luck and protection.’ (Clodagh Doyle, Curator Irish Folklife Division).

 There are two aspects to this project:

 ‘Welcoming the summer’: An Ireland-wide survey of 21st century May customs

Contribute your Wicklow information to a national survey which aims to find out where and how people are still ‘welcoming the summer’ in modern, technological Ireland. Photographs and information documenting what is happening and where this May, can be added to the survey via

May Days Past: Memory and folklore collection

We are interested in collecting personal stories about May Eve and May Day in years gone by. Recollections of older people in the community can greatly contribute to the Museum’s knowledge in this area. Examples of customs include: May Altars, flowers left on the doorstep, flowers or branches hung above the threshold of house and byre, May Eve bonfires, May Poles, Queens and Parades.  

Let us know any Wicklow customs.

We are particularly keen to uncover photographs depicting May celebrations and customs as these are relatively rare. Alternatively, a photograph of the person recollecting May would be welcome.

Memories can be submitted via our online form; scanned or digital photographs can be emailed to

Schools: We would also love to get you involved. Students can record the May Day memories of their parents, grandparents and neighbours and submit them online or, if your school decorates a May Altar, why not add this to the survey?

Photographers: We are challenging photographers across Ireland to ‘Capture Tradition’. Research, find and document customs on May Eve, May Day and during the month of May. Images submitted to the survey will form an online exhibition reflecting the living history of Ireland and a connection with age old beliefs that many thought were truly a thing of the past.

All information submitted to will contribute to the national survey and will also be published on this Wicklow website.

Thank you for helping to celebrate and record our nation’s rich heritage!

 National Museum of Ireland – Country Life



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