The Celtic Festival of Imbolc

There are four significant seasonal festivals in the Celtic calendar and all centre around important times in nature and farming, heralding the beginning of new seasons and new activities.

The Celtic festival of Imbolc is celebrated on the first of February through to sunset on the second. Falling between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, Imbolc marks the halfway point in the dark side of the year and welcomes the start of Spring and the hopes of longer, brighter days ahead. It is the feast day of Brigid or Brigit, a goddess of health, fertility, poetry, prophecy, learning, hearth fire and smithcraft. Brigid is featured in many Irish myths and legends. She was said to have been a daughter of the Daghda, the wife of Bres, the mother of Ruadan and stories often tell of her having two sisters. 

The name Imbolc is said to be derived from old Irish for "in the belly" or "ewe's milk". The associations with birth and fertility at this time of the year are also evident in the rituals involved in celebrating Imbolc such as lighting fires to symbolise the lighter, warmer days ahead and the growing strength of the sun after months of cold and darkness.

St Brigid’s Day is celebrated every year in Ireland on the 1st February. St Brigid of Kildare was a nun and abbess who lived before St Patrick. There are different views about whether they were the same person, used by missionaries in an attempt to bridge the gap between Christianity and paganism, or if they were totally separate women with definite similarities. 

Beltane falls on the first of May, welcoming the warmth of the summer sun and the imminent ripening of crops. It is followed by Lughnasad or Lughnasa on the first of August, when people would gather to celebrate the start of the harvest.

Samhain on the last day of October and the first day of November denotes the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. It has been transformed into the modern day Hallowe'en.

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