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Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
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Burgess: Irish celebration to mark May Day

St. Patty’s Day is past, but there’s no end to Irish merriment. That’s something the Irish do well and often, and sometimes for no cause at all.

This time there is cause, for May Day is almost here and the Irish among us believe that it should be properly celebrated. Freedom Plaza is happy to comply.

Irish celebrations began about 450 B.C., when the Celts first settled Ireland and held their festive tribal gatherings. These festivals were religious in nature and their timing corresponded to movements in the heavens, just as did many other ancient religious practices. This was logical, for it was commonly believed at the time that the path of the sun moved across the sky and influenced the growth of foodstuff — and of life, itself.

The modern May Day evolved from the Celtic festival of Beltane, which means bright fire. May 1 is the midpoint between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, and bonfires were lit to honor Beli, the Light of the Earth. On that day the veil between worlds was supposedly thin and spirits could easily pass through, with bonfires showing them the way.

These Celtic gatherings are still going on, except now they’re given other names, such as St. Patrick’s Day and May Day. Today they’re celebrated not by lighting bonfires and encouraging spirits to visit, but by lighting up the occasion with spirits of another kind — by eating, drinking, singing, dancing and socializing — things the Irish do to perfection. Perhaps it’s because they have had so many centuries of practice.

Echoes of those ancient Celtic festivities still ring at Irish gatherings and will do so once more in the Freedom Plaza Auditorium on Thursday. Sponsored by the Irish Connection of Sun City Center, the event will involve all the delights inherent in an Irish celebration and feature cabaret-style entertainment provided by talented local performers Paddy Cooney, Donna Fiore, Herb Gottlieb, Ruth Hewitt, Bob McPartland and Kathy Straub.

The Irish Connection, as its name implies, is an association of both “sons and daughters of the auld sod” and people not of Irish descent but connected in some way to those who are. If only by association, they’ve absorbed that Irish spirit and delight in showing and sharing it on occasions such as this.

Tickets for the May Day celebration are $10, and proceeds will go to the area Alzheimer’s Association. For reservations, call (813) 634-1824 during Freedom Plaza business hours.

Peggy Burgess is an associate of Freedom Plaza and a columnist for The Sun.

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