With our Celtic ancestors, the tradition on February 1st is to honor the feast and hearth of St. Brigid (Lá Fhéile Bhríde), Imbolc and the first day of Spring. Imbolc literally means "in the belly" and also marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Sometimes called Candlemas, Imbolc festivities typically feature candles, fire and natural light. Ancient tradition states that St. Brigid, the fertility goddess, began bringing the world out of the womb of winter’s dark and into the awakening of the seasons of light.
Well here in Southern California, we don't experience the same level of harsh "winter" as our friends across the pond, however we can still celebrate in our own way. This year in 2021, Imbolc follows the full moon, calling for prayers of gratitude and relishing in what is lush and already present in abundance. Following a year of devastation and isolation from Covid-19, one may think this to be a difficult task, however there is still truly so much to be grateful for.
1. Spring Clean.
- Imbolc signals the period of time to kick of spring-cleaning. Before you set up your altar, thoroughly clean your home (or at least the space you plan to set up your altar). Clear away clutter, make a donation trip to the local thrift store, dust, sweep, and wipe down surfaces. Considering we in the middle of a global pandemic, we used the plethora of Clorox wipes on hand! That refreshing feeling you get afterwards lays a solid foundation for your holiday experience. I'm personally an OCD neat freak and relish in the Konmari method so this part is truly my favorite.
2. Create an Imbolc Altar.
-Any altar reflects the imagination of its creator. There are no hard-and-fast rules about how to set up an Imbolc altar, or what you should include on it.
Example items to include:
A bowl of water (preferably from the rain, spring or ocean). A jug of milk or cream is also seen in tradition (I used an Irish crystal pitcher from my bathroom along with some collected rain water)
Candles, candles and more candles!
Logs or fire - Grab some small twigs or wood scraps and make a little pile of them on the altar to symbolize the hearth fire. (I used my Palo Santo)
A bulb or dish of seeds - This represents new beginning and life (I used seeds from my birds cage! Remember use what you can - there are no rules)
Tokens / Images - Representing your dreams for the coming year (I used my Vision Board from NYE)
Sun symbols - It’s time to celebrate the return of the light! The sun continues to grow stronger since its reemergence during the Winter Solstice. (I used my daughter Aurora's golden sun and moon phase decor)
Snow cakes or seed cakes - On the day of Imbolc, celebrate by whipping up a batch of snow or seed cakes. Reserve one to put on the altar overnight. Then, bury it in the garden to bless the planting season. (We made poppy seed chocolate banana muffins and ate them! Oops. Don't judge)
2. Include your Littles.
The Irish called this Spring’s Beginning. When you put a seed in the ground, what does it need to grow? Rain and Sun! Water and Fire! Ask them the questions and include them in the making of the altar. You can even have them draw or create artwork to include as well.
3. Fire Blessing.
If age appropriate, take turns lighting a candle and sharing something, or about something, you have recently created. Children might find a poem to recite, sing a song, or show a painting they have recently made.
4. Water Blessing.
Imbolc (Candelmas) Chant to St Brigit If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, Winter again will show its might. If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, Winter soon will pass away. (Fox version) If Candlemas day be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight. If Candlemas day be shower and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again. (Traditional)