Imbolc – Brighit – Candlemas – St. Brigid’s Day

Brigid's Cloak - Handwork Homeschool - Imbolc St. Bridget

February 1st or February 2nd ??

It’s hard to pin down exactly when we are supposed to celebrate this mid-winter festival which revolves around this fascinating woman.   Who was she really & why is she worthy of being remembered for over a thousand years ? Legends swirl around this Irish figure like the mists of time.  She is at once an ancient pagan goddess & an early medieval Catholic saint.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of Brighit (she is also known as Bride, Brid, Brigantia, Bridget, Brighid – the list of her various names goes on & on).  I always liked the name  & decided ages ago that I would name my daughter after her.  As fate would have it, my first child was a son, so that idea was a no go.  Luckily, my second baby was a girl & she is the proud bearer of this regal name.

brigid symbol handwork homeschool

As a homeschooler, I can pick & choose what I want to emphasis in my children’s lives. When my son was in grade 2 & as we follow a Waldorf path, we studied saints.  Many of the ‘usual’ saints that are included during the year’s main lessons are men.  I believe that boys should learn about strong women & as my younger daughter sits in on many of our lessons, it made sense to share the stories of several female saints that year.   Of course, Brigid topped my list.

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Since I first introduced Brigid to my children, she has become a favourite around here.  They wait for the day when I read “her” book (Brigid’s Cloak) & pay close attention.  My daughter marvels at her magical deep-blue cloak & wishes she, too, could tend sheep while my son is fascinated by the Druid who visits Brigid’s home when she was first born.  I find this book particularly wonderful because it skillfully combines the pagan & Christian roots of her story.  

Celebrating Imbolc/St. Bridget’s Day

Around our house, we celebrate her day(s) with a mix of delicious food (stacks of pancakes & milk based treats like ice cream, butter & cream – not all together!!), lots of candles (our dinner table was ablaze with them) & talk of what we hope to grow in our gardens this year.

So much has been written about this phenomenal woman.  I must admit that I often fall into the homeschooler’s trap of collecting too many sources about a particular subject & find that I have to take the time to synopsize them before I can actually make any use of them !

To that end, I thought I’d gather a few festival highlights here –

Festival Date(s)

  • February 1st & 2nd (from sunset to sunset)

Meaning of Brigid

  • from the Gaelic  brigh “bright flame, power, strength, vigour, virtue, exalted one”
  • patroness of crafts (including blacksmithing, weaving, dyeing, brewing), healers & midwives; poets, language & alphabets; farm work & cattle

Meaning of Imbolc – (Feb. 1)

  • derived from the Gaelic oimelc  “ewe’s milk”
  • a celebration of Brigid, new life, baby lambs, the re-awakening of the earth
  • marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice (Dec. 21) & the Vernal Equinox (March 21)

Meaning of Candlemas – (Feb. 2)

  • the day when candles for the coming year would be blessed in  church, a Festival of Light
  • by this day, all Christmas decorations had to be removed from the home

St. Brigid (or Mary of the Gaels) – (Feb.1)

  • one of 3 patron saints of Ireland
  • born in 452, an early Christian nun, abbess & founder of several monasteries of nuns & monks
  • founder of an renowned art school (metalwork & illumination)

Traditional Symbols

  • fire, water, seeds, candles, early spring flowers (lilies, snowdrops), ploughs

Traditional Animals

  • sheep, cows, wolves, snakes

Traditional Festival Foods

  • pancakes, crepes (they look like the sun), milk, butter, cream

Colours

  • red (for fire), blue (for her cloak), green (for new growth)

A Few Ways to Celebrate

  • place silk ribbons or pieces of fabric on a window sill on January 31st (known as “Brigid’s Mantle”) to be blessed overnight by her spirit & give them to loved ones to protect them during the coming year
  • leave offerings of bread for birds or other small creatures who might be finding it difficult to find food at this time of year
  • make candles!  (yellow,white & orange are the best colours to celebrate the return of the sun’s light)
  • bake bread & knead your prayers into the dough, share it with your loved ones or those who could use a pick-me-up
  • weave a Brigid’s cross

There are many sayings associated with these festivals.
Here’s an ancient weather prediction:

If Candlemas day be fair & bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day be shower & rain,
Winter is gone & will not come again.

Our Candlemas Day was absolutely beautiful here – clear, blue & cold.

handwork homeschool

I guess our fireplaces will be burning brightly for a few more weeks!  Oh well, all the better to knit (& read) by…

elizabeth des roches handwork homeschool

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P.S. Check out my pins on my Brighit Board

P.P.S Looking for an easy Celtic project ?  Try this Celtic Wish Pouch.

The post “Imbolc – Brighit – Candlemas – St. Brigid’s Day ” first appeared on Handwork Homeschool.

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