Irish Language Blog

Féilte Mhí na Bealtaine (May Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day) Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

There are three main holidays associated with mí na Bealtaine in the United States: Lá Bealtaine (1ú Bealtaine), Lá na Máithreacha (12ú Bealtaine sa bhliain 2013), agus Lá Cuimhneacháin (Luan deireanach na Bealtaine, 27ú Bealtaine sa bhliain 2013).  Of course, in every month there are also many days of special recognition that are not considered holidays as such.  These range from (and here follow my own Irish translations, since I find no other record of them i nGaeilge) Lá Náisiúnta na Múinteoirí (Dé Máirt sa chéad seachtain lán i mí na Bealtaine, 7ú Bealtaine i 2013) to Lá Náisiúnta … creid nó ná creid é … Craiceann Oráiste Criostalaithe (4ú Bealtaine).

In this blog, we’ll look briefly at the three main holidays.  As the month unfolds, perhaps we’ll take a look at cúpla ceiliúradh eile that are neamhchoitianta, like “National Orange Peel Day.”  For those interested in fuller details for each of the major holidays, there are iarbhlaganna which discuss them (liostáilte thíos).

Lá Bealtaine, Oíche Bhealtaine (1 Bealtaine)

Bealtaine” [BAL-tin-yuh] is a fairly straightforward word in Irish, since it has no separate ending to show possession and since we rarely need to discuss it in the plural.  Probably the most significant change to note for it is that after the word “oíche” (eve, night), it becomes “Bhealtaine” [VAL-tin-yuh].

Why does “Bealtaine” become “Bhealtaine” after “oíche”?  Because in the phrase “Oíche Bhealtaine,” we’re dealing with a feminine noun (oíche).  “Lá,” on the other hand is a masculine noun, so “Bealtaine” remains the same.  In both cases the word “Bealtaine” is functioning as an adjective, so it follows the pattern for adjectives modifying nouns.  For feminine singular nouns  that is “lenition” (softening), here with “b” becoming “bh.”  Similarly, we say “Oíche mhaith!” (Good night!) but “lá maith” (a good day).  Note that “good day,” is not typically used as a greeting in Irish.  It usually refers to weather, but could also be used by Irish-speaking Klingons (why not!) exhorting each other to fight valiantly in battle, unto death (Tliongáinis: Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam / BéarlaToday is a good day to die! / Gaeilge: “Inniu lá maith le bás a fháil, a fairly literal equivalent).

Lá na Máithreacha (12 Bealtaine, 2013)

We’ve recently discussed the word “máthair” as a kinship term and as a prime example of Indo-European connections, with cognates all over the map.  As for creating the Irish term for Mother’s Day, the general consensus is that it should be plural, “the day of the mothers.”  So that gives us “máithreacha” [MAW-hrzuh-khuh}.  You will also find forms of “Mother’s Day” in Irish using the singular (“of the mother”) though, at least a few online.  That would be “Lá na Máthar.”  Note that irregular possessive form, “máthar,” with the “i” dropped out.  The good news is that “father” and “brother” follow the same pattern (athair / athar; deartháir / dearthár).

Lá Cuimhneacháin (i Meiriceá; 27 Bealtaine 2013)

Once again, we have a “day of” structure, not an “(adjective) day” structure, i.e. “day of memorial,” not “memorial day” as such.  “Cuimhneachán” means “memorial,” “commemoration,” or “remembrance.”   Here the “i” is added just before the final “n” to show that the word means “of memorial.”   Remember, there is no real equivalent in Irish to the English possessive “of.”  Possession is generally shown by a change to the ending of a word, as in Latin or German, and sometimes there is a change to the beginning of the word.  The mionrudaí for that would be ábhar blag eile, but some quick samples are “cóta Shéamais” [KOH-tuh HAY-mish] for “coat of Séamas” and “Áras an Uachtaráin” for “mansion of the Uachtarán / President.”

Cuimhneachán” is related to “cuimhin” (“memory,” but rarely translated literally), which is used to say you remember something, such as:

Is cuimhin liom mo chéad lá ar scoil. 

Tá brón orm ach ní cuimhin liom d’ainm. 

So that’s a “samplóir,” anyway, of a few of the “laethanta speisialta” that occur i mí na Bealtaine.  Can any of you think of some other interesting or unusual ones?  If so, please write in.  SGF, Róislín

Liosta Iarbhlaganna ar na hÁbhair Seo:

Lá Bealtaine: (1 Bealtaine 2012) (1 Bealtaine 2011) (1 Bealtaine 2010) Bealtaine 2009)

Lá na Máithreacha: (8 Bealtaine 2011) (7 Bealtaine 2010) (10 Bealtaine 2009)

Lá Cuimhneacháin: (31 Bealtaine 2010)

Gluais: craiceann, peel; creid, believe; criostalaithe, candied, crystallized; cuimhneachán, memorial; neamhchoitianta, uncommon

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