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May Day in Ireland

May Day (Lá Bealtaine), or Labour Day (Lá an Lucht Oibre), is the first Monday of May. It is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland. It is a traditional Celtic festival and a time to campaign for workers rights.

Maypole Dancer
The maypole dance is a fading tradition associated with May Day in Ireland.
The maypole dance is a fading tradition associated with May Day in Ireland.
©iStockphoto.com/Thomas Sarradet

What Do People Do?

Fairs or communal meals are held in some villages. Some people attend Labour Day parades, demonstrations and celebrations in large cities, such as Dublin. These often attract contingents from trade unions, political parties and groups campaigning for social justice from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. These events may be on the first Monday of May or a Saturday close to this date.

Public Life

Banks, post offices and many other businesses and organizations are closed on the first Monday of May. However, stores and pubs are generally open, although they may open later and close earlier than usual. Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one lives and intends to travel. There may be some local disruption to traffic due to parades.


The beginning of May is associated with the Celtic festival Lá Bealtaine. This marked the start of the season of blossoming flowers and fruit trees. Traditionally, belfires  are lit on the evening before May Day. Belfires are large bonfires burning wood from a range of types of trees. The different types of wood had different spiritual meanings and were thought to play an important role in the fertility of the land and cattle in the coming year.

The first Monday of May became a public holiday following the Public Holiday Regulations 1993 Act. The holiday was first observed in 1994. Find out more about the background to this holiday by reading Timeanddate.com's general article on May Day/Labor Day.


The maypole is a traditional symbol of May Day and fertility in the Republic of Ireland. A maypole is generally three or more meters (ten or more feet) tall and is decorated with colorful ribbons. Children and young people traditionally dance around the maypole on May Day, although this custom is fading. Each person holds one or more ribbons during the dancing. After the dances are completed, the ribbons are arranged to make a decorative pattern on the pole. The May Day dances traditionally signified the beginning of the courting season for young people.

About May Day in other countries

Read more about May Day.

May Day Observances

WeekdayDateYearNameHoliday Type
MonMay 32010May DayNational holiday
MonMay 22011May DayNational holiday
MonMay 72012May DayNational holiday
MonMay 62013May DayNational holiday
MonMay 52014May DayNational holiday
MonMay 42015May DayNational holiday
MonMay 22016May DayNational holiday
MonMay 12017May DayNational holiday
MonMay 72018May DayNational holiday
MonMay 62019May DayNational holiday
MonMay 42020May DayNational holiday

Quick Facts

The first Monday of May is a public holiday in Ireland. It does not have an official name but is often referred to as May Day or Labour Day.

May Day 2018

Monday, May 7, 2018

May Day 2019

Monday, May 6, 2019


Name in other languages

May DayEnglish
Lá BealtaineIrish

List of dates for other years

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