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