Today in Ireland is celebrated Lá Féile Bríde, St. Brigid’s Day, the second patron of Ireland after Saint Patrick. In Pre-Christian times on this day was celebrated the Celtic festival of Imbolc which announced the beginning of Spring, the beginning of new life. It was connected to the fertility of animals and of the earth and the ancient mother goddess in her maiden aspect. The Irish Church took aspects of the ancient feast and applied them to St. Brigid who was looked for on this day to bless animals and crops. She was renowned for her generosity and hospitality, two of the principal characteristics of the Celtic church. On this day the tradition was to bake fresh food and send some to neighbours who were needy.
Today was celebrated because it is the midway point between the winter and the spring solstice, and was seen as the time when hope begins to stir because Spring will soon be here. You would not think so here this morning when temperatures dropped to minus 10. However the ancient wisdom reminds us that new life is not far away even if the earth or our lives seem barren and cold. It was a day for lighting a fire, for announcing warmth and light in the dark time of winter. Hope returns. An old Irish poem says of this day Anois teacht an Earraigh beidh an lá dul chun síneadh, – Spring is coming back and the days start getting longer. New life, warmer days, growth, hope, hospitality and generosity. An ancient message relevant for us on this day.