Monday, 30 April 2018

Customs for May Day in the Ballyshannon area

May Day Customs would have been popular in the 1920s in the 
Back Street and in the town and countryside

People long ago had great faith in customs and traditions which were handed down through the generations. People were also very much in tune with the seasons and had customs to go with particular times of the year. Certain times of the year such as Halloween, Bonfire Night, New Year’s Day and May Day had their own special customs in this area.

·         A May Eve custom was to collect yellow flowers like buttercups from the meadows. They were made into wreaths and hung over doors. These flowers were supposed to bring good luck all the year round to those who passed under them

·         On the evening before the First of May ashes were put on the doorstep and in the morning, if a footprint was turned inwards in the ashes, it was a sign of a marriage in the house, but if the footprint pointed outwards it was a sign of a death in the house

·          If you got up before the sun rose on May morning and washed your face in the dew you would be good-looking for the rest of that year

·         On May-Eve some people went out and gathered a branch of a rowan berry tree. This was put around the churn dash and people say they will never want butter the whole year round. In some places a May Queen was chosen and on May Day she was crowned with a wreath of flowers.

·         May day was an important day of the year as it was the beginning of summer. It was a lucky day to move cattle to pasture.

·          The 1st of May was Hiring Day.

·         Old May Day, 11th of May, was when young calves were put out for the first time and then they wouldn’t get a cold.

·         Any person suffering from bronchitis was said to get worse or even die in May.

·         Marriage in May was considered unlucky and also it was unlucky to see strangers walking on the land on May morning.

·          It was lucky to pull a rope through the dew on May morning, and then put it under a churn which would be filled with butter the next day.

·          May flowers were pulled and one put at each door and window, and the Blessed Virgin walked on these on May Eve. The McNamara family carry on this custom on West Rock and others robably do the same elsewhere

·          The water to be used for churning on May Day had to be the first water taken from the well before sunrise on May morning.

·         A householder watched to see his neighbour’s smoke before he would put on his fire. No coals were let out of the house on May Day, neither was milk given to a neighbour that day.

A  Local History Book suitable for those at Home and Away

"Ballyshannon. Genealogy and History" reveals newly researched history and genealogy of the town, extending as far as the Rossnowlagh, Cashelard, Corlea, Clyhore, Higginstown and Finner areas. Includes the parishes of Kilbarron and Magh Ene. It contains the full story of  The Green Lady which  was  performed in Ballyshannon  to great acclaim. The genealogy material provides detailed guidelines for anyone tracing their roots in the area or anywhere in County Donegal or Ireland. The book contains 500 pages and is richly illustrated with stunning colour, aerial photography, original illustrations and rare photographs of the area not seen before. Available in Novel Idea, Museum and Local Hands in Ballyshannon and 4 Masters Bookshop Donegal Town. Also available from Anthony Begley for postal enquiries email

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