Brigid's Day: Winter's Cross Quarter
You've probably heard of "Groundhog Day." In the dominant culture, the beginning of February is celebrated by a small, burrowing mammal coming out to see his shadow, or lack there of. Perhaps you saw the movie with Bill Murray. Weird, right? Do not let this silly tradition fool you. There is much more wisdom to this time of year. No offense, to groundhogs and the other animals who spend the winter tucked away in hibernation, it's really quite wise!
Somewhere, somehow, the festival at the beginning of February got it's name changed. Actually, there are many names for the earth-based tradition that is celebrated on February 1 or 2: Brigid, Imbolc, Candlemas, Imbolg, or Brigid's Day. This celebration is also known as a cross-quarter day because it falls at the mid point of winter solstice and spring equinox. Other cross-quarter days are Samhain/Halloween on October 31, Beltane/May Day on May 1 and Lammas/Lughnasadh on July 31/August 1.
I celebrate Brigid's Day on February 1 and 2 because 2/2 has always been a special day for me; it's my younger sister's birthday and so the day is one of my very first memories. I most often refer to the day as Brigid's Day, after the celtic goddess of the dawn, associated with spring, fertility, healing and poetry. Brigid was christianized and so the feast of Saint Brigid coincides with these celebrations. Some say the name Imbolc is a gaelic translation from "lamb's milk" or "in the belly," referring to pregnancy, because this time of year is also the beginning of the sheep's birthing season.
This stretch of time, late January to early February is also the time we celebrate Lunar/Chinese New Year. Lucky money is passed around and in San Francisco we have a a parade with large marching bands and dragons in the streets! This year we celebrate the Water Pig on February 5. Like Brigid's Day, Lunar New Year is spring festival, which goes to show that the ending of winter is quite a thing to celebrate!
What do you notice about this time of year? How do you feel about it? What does the maturity of winter feel like to you? What do you notice nature doing? What is emerging in you?
I think of this time in the wheel of the year as a reminder or a twinkle that winter doesn't last forever, although it can feel that way. If it were a time of day, it would be the first light of dawn, the earliest bit of morning, when it's so cold it still feels like night. It's the interstitial time - we are in-between seasons, in-between worlds. Below are a few ideas on how to incorporate the energy of Brigid's Day into your rituals and routines:
1. Treat yourself to extra-fresh or extra-fancy eggs, milk or flowers at the grocery store.
2. Initiate a dream journal and commit to writing upon waking.
3. Browse seed catalogues or visit a nursery for garden inspiration. Then, start your seeds indoors by a sunny window!
4. Write a poem, or play a song on your favorite instrument.
5. Light a candle and spend the entire time it is burning writing or drawing about ideas for your year to come. Hint: Start with a small candle!
Brigid's Day is not a huge celebration, but it is a notable one. It is a reminder that we are on a wheel of seasons. Take a moment to hit the snooze button and revel in the quietness of winter for ten more minutes. Or rise with pride, for the morning awaits you!