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In Pictures: Fiery start to May Day celebrations

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iant bonfires were lit as darkness fell on the last day of April as part of an ancient Celtic celebration to mark the beginning of summer.

Beltane, or Beltain, is centred around the story of the May Queen and the Green Man, and the lighting of bonfires is symbolic of purification, healing and new life.

A giant wicker man, this year representing an Iron Age warrior, is seen before being set alight at the Beltain Festival at Butser Ancient Farm in Waterlooville, Hampshire (Andrew Matthews/PA) / PA Wire
Wishes are placed inside the wicker man before it is set alight (Andrew Matthews/PA) / PA Wire
The May Queen and Green Man dance in front of the giant wicker man as part of the ancient ritual (Andrew Matthews/PA) / PA Wire
The fire is lit, as an historical interpreter representing an Iron Age Briton watches on (Andrew Matthews/PA) / PA Wire
Members of the Pentacle Drummers perform in front of the burning wicker man (Andrew Matthews/PA) / PA Wire
The Hampshire event was popular with onlookers, while similar celebrations took place elsewhere across the country too (Andrew Matthews/PA) / PA Wire
In Edinburgh, the May Queen and Green Man arrived to the dramatic surroundings of Calton Hill (Jane Barlow/PA) / PA Wire
The large-scale reinterpretation of the ancient celebration featured dozens of participants (Jane Barlow/PA) / PA Wire
The Green Man led a dramatic performance with fire (Jane Barlow/PA) / PA Wire
Hundreds of spectators gathered for the event, in the shadow of the National Monument (Jane Barlow/PA) / PA Wire

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