The Celtic holiday of Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Celtic calendar. Many still celebrate this fire festival, sacred to the goddess Brigid, patroness of poets, healers, and smiths. Today is also the feast day of Saint Brigid of Ireland – the patron saint of poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies.
In Scotland the festival is also known as Latha Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.
Imbolc is traditionally a time of weather prognostication, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens is perhaps a precursor to our modern Groundhog’s Day.
Imbolc is a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Rituals often involve hearthfires, special foods, divination or simply watching for omens (whether performed in all seriousness or as children’s games), a great deal of white candles, and perhaps an outdoor bonfire if the weather permits. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
If you would like to celebrate with some friends and have an Imbolc feast, here are some menu suggestions. The feast usually includes some sort of dairy product (cheese), something green and fresh (salad) to indicate the coming of spring, but since winter is still with us, the main fare is usually hearty (stew) and served with a nice, crusty bread. Tasty beverages may include mead, ale, spiced wine, or non-alcoholic equivalents.