Beltane Fire Festival

Beltane Fire Festival

Jasper Schwartz

Birth, death and everything in between at the annual fire festival

The death of winter. The birth of summer. Shedding darkness and celebrating light in a decadent parade throughout Edinburgh's streets, culminating in a dramatic climax on the historic Calton Hill: that's what Beltane is all about.

A consistent high point in the city's spring calendar, Beltane is more than just an excuse to smear yourself in green paint and dance naked on a hill. In fact, it's a traditional celebration of the battle of the seasons, with death and rebirth played out through processions, fire, drumming and pyrotechnics. Taking full advantage of its open-air status, Beltane loses the fourth wall completely with revellers encouraged to succumb to the heartbeat of the spectacular and get lost in the modern interpretation of an ancient fertility festival.

Spread across Calton Hill, the procession of the May Queen (representing summer) is a focal point, but simultaneous counter-performances, featuring fire dancers and Celtic characters, take place throughout the arena. As the night draws on, more and more characters are roused and the hill is brought to life, mirroring the awakening which the earth undertakes as it transitions from winter to spring.

Now in its 29th year, the festival seems to be looking more towards adulthood: a children's event – Family Beltane – is set to get a new breed of merrymakers excited about the spectacle. Taking place at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on Sat 23 Apr, kids can be introduced to the heritage behind the event, through a mixture of storytelling, face painting and arts & crafts. Definitely no fire, though. Not until adolescence, anyway.

Beltane Fire Festival

A modern interpretation of the ancient fertility festival of Beltane in the spectacular setting of Calton Hill. Beltane Fire Society performs the story of the death of winter and the birth of summer via dance, drumming, debauched acrobatics, giant-puppetry and fire.

Family Beltane

A chance for kids to explore the changing of the seasons through storytelling, face painting and arts and crafts. Suitable for accompanied children over 5.

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