Imbolc, Groundhog Day, Presentation, Candlemas …

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… Lunar New Year, Tet, days getting longer, people complaining about winter …

“It’s Imbolc,” I say, brightly. “The first day of spring. In the Celtic calendar.”

I don’t ordinarily get a cheerful response. February 1st, at this latitude, is not what we typically associate with spring, which is supposed to be pastel flowers and buds and sunshine. Where I live it is still gray and frozen. There are more birds now, but the sounds are still lonely—the occasional chickadee or a distant crow. And yet …

“What you believe was born at the dark of the year begins to appear.” That’s how I first heard this time of year explained. Otherwise, why are there so many, if not festivals, at least observances, right at the time winter seems the longest?

Because this is when there are things to notice.

There are a lot of things to notice, actually, once you start doing it. It’s the starting that’s hard. We’re just barely past the exhausting holiday season and happily settling in for a long winter’s nap—or at least something resembling all the cozy hygge images—when out there in the world, no farther than our own window, or yard, or street, things are happening.

It will be a long time yet before we see stereotypical Spring—there will be more snow, cold snaps, mud season—but the energy in the earth is shifting. I have noted the arrival, for instance, of the Squeaky Hinge Bird. It might have over-wintered here and it might be a Blue Jay, but it is only in the past few days that it gives one alarmed metallic yell when I open the door in the morning. The birds haven’t all come back from their winter homes, but there is a shift, a new pattern, right at my doorstep. That’s Imbolc.

Imbolc is Brigid’s Day, by the way. The patron saint/goddess of healing, metalsmithing, and poetry, she has traditionally been honored with an abundance of dairy products. So observe the day with a bowl of Colcannon, mashed potatoes with sauteed chopped cabbage, kale, or parsley. Any greens will do, and extra points if you can forage new shoots of dandelion or nettle. Make it with cream and an abundance of butter, in her honor.


Am I missing any festivals that mark this time of year? Let me know in the comments.

One Response

  1. You’ve made me hungry for those mashed potatoes, topped with the Kerrygold Irish butter I’ve been buying lately!

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