1.An ancient Celtic feast marked by the lighting of bonfires and the performance of various rites of purification.
2.May 1, the day on which this feast was held.
[Middle English, from Scottish Gaelic bealltainn.]
Walpurgis Night (väl-p¢r´gîs
1.a. The eve of May Day, observed in some European countries and in some Scandinavian communities in the United States in celebration of spring and marked by music, singing, and bonfires. b. The eve of Beltane, believed by medieval christians to be the occasion of a witches' Sabbath.
2.An episode or a situation having the quality of nightmarish wildness.
[Partial translation of German Walpurgisnacht : Walpurgis, Saint Walpurga (died 779) + Nacht, night.]
In Celtic tradition, the beginning of May marked the start of summer. Huge bonfires were lit on the hilltops, sometimes near a sacred tree representing the gods of vegetation - a practice that gave rise to the tradition of the maypole. Once the bonfires were blazing, the people danced around them, singing and moving in a clockwise direction. Sometimes bonfire were kindled in paris, and the merrymakers danced and drove their cattle between them as a rite of purification. Beltane was suppressed by the Catholic church, but pagan practices long continued to greet the month of May. In England and elsewhere, young men and maidens would go a-Maying on the even of May Day, spending the night in the greenwood and returning at dawn to dress the village in boughs of greenery and garlands of flowers - a custom that came to be called "bringing in the May."