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Saint Bridget's Day And Folk Traditions

Brigid's Day and Imbolc

The feast day Saint Bridget of Kildare, also called St Brigid of Ireland, Patron Saint of Ireland, is February 1st, which is traditionally the beginning of spring in Ireland.

Saint Brigid's Cross.

Saint Brigid is associated with the making, blessing and giving of Brigid's crosses as the one above.

  • Saint Brigid's Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde in Irish, is also the day of the old Celtic festival of Imbolc. Imbolc marks the start of longer days. In agriculture, it marks the start of the lambing season. This ancient Celtic pagan feast is one of the ‘quarter days’ of the Celtic calendar which marked the mid-points between solstice dates, crucial days in the earths’ journey around the sun. When Newgrange was excavated and examined, archaeologists could tell by the orientation of the tomb that the day of Imbolc was important to the Neolithic farming community that built these structures. That means the tradition of Imbolc is some 5,000 years old.
  • As it happens, this Celtic feast that is so much part of Irish culture, was associated with the Celtic Goddess Bridget. Many Celtic feast days were adopted by the early Christians and their association was changed to saints instead of natural events or ancient Gods. When you think about it, it makes sense. It would have been much easier to covert people if they could keep their old habits and leave their culture much unchanged practising celebrations on the same days of the year as they had always done.

Read more about Saint Bridget

Find out here about Saint Brigid's life, and about her miracles.

Make a Brigid's Cross!

  • The best known Brigid's tradition is the making and giving of Brigid's crosses. This tradition is based on a legend about Saint Brigid which tells us that she converted a dying Pagan. To explain the new faith to him, she improvised making a cross from rushes which was all that was available to her in the location. Traditionally, Brigids crosses are made on Brigid’s Eve, January 31st. They are made from fresh rushes which are plentiful in Ireland. There are a few different shapes of these crosses but the one we are demonstrating here how to make is the most common and best known one.
  • Crosses can be given to neighbours and friends as presents. They make for a creative Irish gift. Placing a cross above the door is a welcome to visitors. The crosses are also thought to protect the home and its’ inhabitants.
  • There are some other folk traditions associated with Saint Brigid, but these are seldom practised these days. For example, celebrations on Brigids Day could include special foods such as dairy foods or pancakes.
  • We have heard about a tradition of sending girls dressed in white from door to door. They might carry a small doll made from straw called a Brideóg meant to symbolise Saint Brigid. Prayers would be said on the door step and similar to the Halloween tradition of trick or treating, people would give her a treat of a special food to bring.  

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