Yesterday was the 1st of February. Not exactly an important date around the globe, but here in Ireland it marked the first day of Spring.
It was only very recently that I found out that Ireland is the only country in which Spring begins in February! I made the discovery while working as a teacher for children who had English as an Additional Language. Most of these children were born in Ireland, but their families hailed from many countries across the globe.
While teaching months and season, the children were quick to ‘correct’ me! They thought it was hilarious that, in their eyes, the teacher didn’t know the months of each season. It happened enough times that I went online to check and lo-and-behold discovered this:
“In terms of complete months, in most North Temperate Zone locations, spring months are March, April and May… …In Ireland spring traditionally starts on 1 February, St Brigid’s Day.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_(season)]
The Celtic/Gaelic Calendar
It would seem that Ireland’s traditions are firmly rooted in the ancient Celtic calendar. There are eight highlights of this calendar: Yule (Winter Solstice), Litha (Summer Solstice), Ostara (Spring Equinox), Mabon (Autum Equinox) and the four ‘quarter-days’ Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain (marking the points between the Solstices and the Equinoxes).
St Brigid’s Day/Imbolc
St Brigid’s Day (or Imbolc) marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is an Irish festival celebrating the beginning of spring and the returning of the light. Children in primary schools all over the country make St Brigid’s crosses out of reeds or rushes. According to tradition, a new cross should be made for the household each year.
Here is an Irish Traditional Blessing that honours St. Brigid’s Day:
“May Brigid bless the house where you dwell,
every fireside door and every wall;
every heart that beats beneath its roof,
every hand that toils to bring it joy,
every foot that walks its portals through.
may Brigid bless the house that shelters you.”
I have only scratched the surface, but if you would like to know more, I have come across some interesting sites that go into greater detail!
The Real Celtic Spring: The Festival of St Brigid
The Light Returns…Imbolc
The Festival of Imbolc and St Brigid
The Religious Foundation of Groundhog Day
How to make a St Brigid’s Cross