The 1st of May in Ireland was an important festival in folk tradition. The celebrations were a welcoming of the summer and the new farm season. People celebrated with flowers, dancing and bonfires. Many May day customs centred on protecting the family, the home, the herd, the churn and the dairy.
Discover the May Day customs in your locality:
In 1947, the Irish Folklore Commission published a questionnaire on May Eve and May Day. Students could use the questions in this questionnaire to ask their older relatives about their memories of May Day. The questionnaire is available in Irish and English.
Find out more about Irish May traditions and customs by watching Clodagh Doyle, Keeper of the Irish Folklife Division at the National Museum of Ireland telling lots of May Day customs. For a longer podcast series on May Day customs, listen in Blúiríní Béaloidis/Folklore Fragments.
Clodagh Doyle is a Keeper of the Irish Folklife Division at the National Museum of Ireland. Watch Clodagh's video with your class and complete the follow up activities using the guided presentation.View full description
True proverbs are sayings that have been passed from generation to generation. Discover some proverbs associated with May and write a short story around the theme of a proverb using these guided worksheet.View full description
The National Folklore Collection (NFC) preserves an important record of Ireland’s oral tradition and material culture. It features folklore recorded from across the 32 counties of Ireland, in both Irish and English. Approximately 740,000 pages of folklore and local tradition were compiled by pupils from 5,000 primary schools in the Irish Free State between 1937 and 1939. The children recorded this material from their parents, grandparents and neighbours.
The Dúchas Project provides the public with access to material from the collection. Visit Dúchas.ie to read about the traditions and customs associated with May Day.
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