Can you believe it's May on Sunday? Undoubtedly one of my favourite times of year, although I strongly suspect I say that about every season. The first of May is the pagan festival Beltane, and is related to the Irish Gaelic word for the month of May, mí na Bealtaine. The word beltane is said to mean "the fire of Bel" - tine being the Gaelic word for fire and Bel or Beal, the Celtic god Belenus, the shining one. To the ancient Celts, this was the first day of summer, a significant point in the turning of the year, where light takes control over the darkness and the Green Man - the Oak King regains control from the Holly King of the winter. To reinforce the significance of the light, the day was often marked with bonfires, in fact over in Edinburgh they re-started this tradition in 1988, and the celebrations on Calton Hill include the lighting of a magnificent bonfire. You can read more about both the ancient and modern festivals here.
There are of course other celebrations associated with the first of the month, it's International Workers' Day and also International Dawn Chorus Day. Join the RSPB down at Baron's Haugh on 7th May for an event to celebrate the dawn chorus (booking required); learn to identify some of the most common birdsong, or simply listen. You need to be an early riser though as it starts at 5.00am. If you don't think you'll be out of your bed in time, you can also enjoy the dawn chorus this Sunday while you are still snuggled up, thanks to Dawn Chorus Live over on facebook. Meanwhile International Workers' Day, originally a celebration of the 8 hour working day, is commemorated in London with a march and rally; it's a campaign for trade union rights and human rights, tackling poverty as well as a focus on a just transition. They also host an online version on their website.
One way I've seen suggested to mark May Day is to put a new project out into the world, and in the spirit of this, Get Outdoors Lanarkshire are pleased to bring you our nature noticing campaign which is going to run throughout May. We want you to become a #naturenoticer in your neighbourhood and share what you find with us on twitter or facebook. Like the bluebell in the picture, nature can creep up on you unawares from the gutter. While it would be great to get up at 5.00am to listen to the dawn chorus, you could instead just open a window and see what you can hear, no need to identify who is singing, just take a moment to listen. May is also National Walking Month, with the lighter mornings and longer evenings giving us more of an opportunity to take some time for walk. Getting those extra steps and extra light is good for you, but it's also a great opportunity to notice more nature, so perhaps you'll accept the challenge of Living Streets and try to walk for 20 minutes every day in May, or get involved in Paths for All's #Ilovewalking campaign and aim for 30 minutes 5 days a week, or if you only have time for a bite sized walk, check out the Go Jauntly's new 15 minute challenge, where you can keep track of how far you go. Personally I'm loving their 2022 challenge to walk 2022 kilometres this year - and there is still plenty of time to sign up to that. Whether you walk (or wheel) part of your commute, leave the car at home when you head to the shops, or visit your local park, it all counts. We look forward to finding out what you notice, wherever you are. We'll be bringing you snippets of nature, digging into the Gaelic tree alphabet and promoting green health events happening across Lanarkshire.