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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.

Is May Day a Public Holiday?

May Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Maypole Dancer

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.

Background

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.

Symbols

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

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2010MonMay 3May DayNational holiday
2011MonMay 2May DayNational holiday
2012MonMay 7May DayNational holiday
2013MonMay 6May DayNational holiday
2014MonMay 5May DayNational holiday
2015MonMay 4May DayNational holiday
2016MonMay 2May DayNational holiday
2017MonMay 1May DayNational holiday
2018MonMay 7May DayNational holiday
2019MonMay 6May DayNational holiday
2020MonMay 4May DayNational holiday

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