If you say “Beltane” (or “Samhain”), most people think pagan festival, if they think anything at all. Maybe people painted blue, romping naked by bonfires, a thousand or so years ago. But actually these so-called pagan rituals are ancient Celt holidays or celebrations, and if you look at them on the calendar, they line up very closely with modern holidays, as other cultures borrowed and adapted these rituals to fit their own needs and religions. For example, Beltane, began the celebration of the beginning of spring with a bonfire the night before the first of May. (Samhain, the feast of the Harvest, was celebrated at the end of October, and became Halloween/All Saints Day.)
It’s fascinating to think about where and why many of our holidays came from, and also to look at how closely early celebrations mirrored the relationship humans have with nature. These two books are both wonderful references for learning about Beltane and other Celtic/Nature celebrations. As a nice bonus, both have plenty of activities for kids and parents to do to celebrate these days.
The Ancient Celtic Festivals: and How We Celebrate Them Today by Claire Walker Leslie and Frenk Gerace
Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children by Cait Johnson and Maura Shaw