Today is the Gaelic Festival for the Start of Spring
In case you didn't know, today (Feb. 1) is the start of Imbolc (also known as Imbolg or Candlemas), a pagan or Wiccan holiday that marks the beginning of spring.
It is one of the four Gaelic festivals that honor the seasons. The other three are Beltane (May Day), Lammas (beginning of the harvest season), and Samhain (the welcoming of the harvest and the original Halloween).
Imbolc is derived from Old Gaelic, meaning “in the belly of the Mother.” It refers to ewes carrying lambs in their bellies, or seeds nestling in the womb of Mother Earth. It has been observed since the 10th century in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
The festival is also dedicated to Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire and fertility. Brigid was later adopted by the Christians as Saint Brigid, the patron saint of newborns, midwives, dairymaids and cattle.
Imbolc is celebrated from Feb. 1 to sunset on Feb. 2, during the midpoint of the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The traditional festivities include gathering with friends over a fire (to mark the return of the sun) or housecleaning (to be ready for spring). The Celts also made Brigid dolls and Brigid crosses out of straw. The dolls were adorned with flowers and leaves. The crosses were hung over doors and windows to keep the home safe from fire, ill health and evil spirits.