This is a festival that is new to many people, and really can be two separate days and in that regard can be a bit confusing.
February 1st is the day to honor St. Brigid (or Brigit, depending upon what reference you use). ( February 1st also is Imbolc or Imbolg in the Pagan tradition).
February 1st is seen as the first day of Spring. I know this seems very odd indeed when in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere people are dealing with ice and cold, but within the agricultural realm, this day is the day that marks the days getting a bit longer. This is a traditional time to prepare for lambing, and usually spring sowing begins.
Brigid was originally viewed as a Celtic goddess, at least according to the Irish tradition as counted in “Celebrating Irish Festivals” and then Brigid became revered as a Saint within the advent of Christianity in Ireland. There are stories about Brigid as the daughter of the innkeeper that gave the holy family shelter in the stable, that she helped Mary escape with an infant Jesus by distracting guards who searched on King Herod’s orders…
She is associated with having a cloak of miracles. In some stories, Brigid requested to have land given to her by the King of Leinster, and when the King said she could have whatever her cloak covered, she laid it down and the cloak covered a large parcel of land!
Here are some ways to celebrate:
- Make Brigid Crosses as protection from evil, fire, lightening, disease. There are many instructions for this one the web. Here is what they look like if you are not familiar: http://janegmeyer.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/fifth-century-weaving-a-saint-brigids-cross/
- Leave out a cloak for Brigid to bless as she comes by that will give the wearer protection.
- Leave out a bowl of milk, butter, salt, for Brigid to bless as she comes by. Leave out a bowl of oats or blessed food. If you leave out seeds, these will be blessed for Spring Sowing.
- Food may include freshly churned butter and braided bread. (Brigid was known as a cowherd and also a beekeeper). Making some sort of bread with honey may also be appropriate.
- Snowdrops and dandelions, white and yellow, might be festive for your table with white or green candles and your Brigid’s crosses.
February 2nd is Candlemas, and this is traditionally the day that celebrates the ritual cleansing of Mary after the birth of Jesus and also when Mary presented the infant Jesus in the temple as according to Jewish tradition. Simeon called Jesus a light, thus tying Him to this day. There are some stories that say Mary was uncomfortable about presenting Jesus in the temple and the attention that this would bring, and Saint Brigid walked ahead of Mary with a crown of lighted candles in order to divert attention from Mary and Jesus. Some sources also say that Brigid wore a crown of candles in order to divert attention from Jesus when Herod’s soldiers were hunting Him. Therefore, Candlemas is celebrated as a festival of lights and also is seen as a day to celebrate the lights of Saint Brigid and her role in helping Mary and Jesus.
“All Year Round” always has such a nice way of putting things. The authors write here: “At the beginning of February, when the infant light of spring is greeted thankfully by the hoary winter earth, it seems fitting we should celebrate a candle Festival to remember that moment when the Light of the World was received into the Temple, when the old yielded to the new.” Indeed, this day in Eastern churches is “The Meeting” – the festival of the old meeting the new.
Candlemas is the day the Church officially blesses the candles for the year. People used to also put candles around the beehives that they had on this day.
Of course, Candlemas is also Groundhog’s Day in the United States, and there is much weather lore surrounding that event. There is also lore surrounding weather and Candlemas in general. “Festivals, Families and Food” recounts this weather verse:
“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will take another flight.
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.”
Here are a few ways to celebrate Candlemas:
- Make candles, of course. Earth Candles are lovely if your ground is not frozen – essentially you dig holes, put in a weighted wick and melted beeswax and help give light to the coming Spring.
- Making floating candles are nice (there are instructions in “All Year Round”) and dipping candles is a lovely way to spend the afternoon of Candlemas.
- This is also a great day to make your Nature Table look more toward Spring. The first flowers, pussywillows or catkins, all those things bring us toward the season of Lent. Also a great time to make some small flower fairies for your Nature Table and put them out. There are instructions in “All Year Round” and also in “The Nature Corner”.
- “Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions” suggests enjoying a candlelit dinner and reading a short story after dinner by candlelight.
- Crepes or pancakes are traditional for breakfast.
Many blessings in your celebrations,