Today is the 1st of February and we can shake off those January blues! The days are getting longer and it's getting warmer (debatable), more importantly, today is Saint Brigid's Feast Day (Lá Fhéile Bhríde), the mark of Spring in Gaelic traditions. Here are some facts about St Brigid’s Day that you may not know and can use on your next visit to Ireland perhaps?
- Today officially marks the start of the pagan festival of spring.
- The date is significant as its the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring solstice
- St. Brigid’s Day is also known as ‘Imbolc’, or the Feast of Brigid (St Brigid’s Feast Day), Imbolc celebrates the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring.
- ‘Imbolc’ translates to "in the belly" in the old Irish Neolithic language.
- Imbolc is one (and the first) of the four major "fire" festivals, referred to in Irish mythology. The other three festivals are Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain.
- Brigid is one of Ireland’s patron saints and one of the most famous along with St. Patrick. Brigid was also known as a fertility goddess in Celtic mythology.
- Brigid is often referred to as ‘Brigit of Kildare’. It has been said that she was the founder of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare. She is also associated with perpetual, sacred flames. You can find a shrine dedicated to her in Kildare.
- According to tradition, Saint Brigid was born at Fochart (or Fothairt), near Dundalk in Co Louth
- One of the most common traditions of the day is to make a Saint Brigid's Cross (here's a quick how-to). Saint Brigid's Cross are quite easy to make and traditionally, you would make them on Brigid’s Eve, January 31st. Normally you would make the cross from fresh rushes, but straw can be used as a replacement if you don't have rush available. They are made in a cross shape with a square shape in the middle and then four arms coming along each side.
- It is believed that these crosses have the power to protect the owner’s home from harm.
- St. Brigid’s cross was used as the idents for RTE television from 1960 to 1990 and was also used as the symbol for the Department of Health. It's still currently used as the logo for An Bord Altranais (the Irish Nursing Board).
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