St Brigid’s Day

1 Feb

 

Today is the feast of St Brigid (or Lá Fhéile Bríde in Irish). It’s also the Celtic festival of Imbolc, so it marks the start of Spring in the Irish calendar.

My (American) husband thinks I’m mad, but I really do think of Spring starting on 1 February, Summer (Bealtaine) on 1 May, Autumn (Lughnasadh) on 1 August and Winter (Samhain) on 1 November. In fact, it was only when I moved abroad to study as a teenager that I realised other countries didn’t see it that way! And I’m still never sure when my husband thinks seasons start (is it at the solstices? Or on a particular month day?).

Anyway, St Brigid, the female patron saint of Ireland, featured quite prominently in my childhood as the primary school I went to was named after her. We always made St Brigid’s crosses around her feast day every year. We’d collect reeds from a marsh near our home and weave them together to make the cross, like this:

 

The cross would then hang in the kitchen for the year, gradually drying out and turning brown, before being burnt the following St Brigid’s day and replaced with a fresh cross. I’ve not made a cross in years, but my mum still has an ancient one from when we were still at school hanging way up high in the kitchen.

While St Brigid is an interesting early Irish saint, she shares her name with the mother goddess of Celtic Ireland – the goddess Brighid. I was definitely taught more about the saint, but she and the goddess are bound together in my childhood memories so I can’t really separate the two in my imagination.

For me, this day is a day to reflect on the gradual lengthening of the days, the return of light to our lives after Winter’s darkness. I leave for work at 7.30am and these days it’s now bright (sun isn’t officially up yet but it’s inching closer by the day). I love this time of year, as I can’t help but be cheered by the days getting longer.

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4 Responses to “St Brigid’s Day”

  1. John Halpin February 2, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    Many, Many thanks for that little piece.
    While going to school in Ireland we made the St. Brigid Crosses. Our Church and Parish was named St. Brigid. We were told she was related to St. Mel. St. Mel’s Cathederal and Collage was in Longford town, about 4 miles from our Church (St. Brigid) in Ardagh, Co. Longford.
    Thanks, again. John.

    • lowimpactmama February 3, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      My sister in law is from Co Longford and I’m from Cork myself. Lovely to hear of others making the crosses.

  2. A Frog at Large February 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    Autumn on 1st August? I’m with your husband on that one I’m afraid. I always thought that seasons coincide more or less with the solstices.

    • lowimpactmama February 3, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

      It’s the summer/autumn divide that causes most “discussion” in our house! To me, midsummer is the summer solstice (seems my Swedish friends are with me on this) and midwinter is the winter solstice, hence the spring and autumn solstices are midspring and mid-autumn (the Irish word for Sept means “middle Autumn” and October means “last Autumn”) but my husband just will not agree! Though it is surreal to be in Spring mode while waiting for our first proper snow of the winter…

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