In early February, Celts celebrate a festival sometimes called Imbolc, sometimes called Candlemas, sometimes called Saint Bridgit’s day; each of these names signifying a different thematic emphasis or a different kind of ceremony related to the season. The ‘original’ theme, if I may speak broadly of such things, was the theme of winter’s end and summer’s immanent arrival – the sign in the environment heralding this theme was the flowing of new milk from the udders of the ewes. When I was living in Ireland, I noted that around this time of year the hawthorn trees started to flower, followed by the gorse trees, for the first time.
I celebrate the signs of the coming of springtime at this time of the year. But I live in Canada, not Ireland; and I live in a part of Canada where winter might persist for another two months or more. It thus makes no sense to celebrate the arrival of the spring. Indeed I suspect that for us Celtic Canucks, Imbolc is a celebration instituted for no better reason than to cheer ourselves up during the dark, cold, miserable, and boring months of winter.
But that might not be such a bad reason after all.
My question to one and all for this week concerns celebrations. At this time of year, what do you celebrate? Do you look for a calendar date, or for an observation in nature, to start the celebration? How do you celebrate it?
And for my readers in Canada and in American states that border Canada: Might it make sense to shift the celebration of Imbolc from the calendar day of 1st February, to the day in which the snow starts to melt for the first time in whatever place you are living? This year, that is what I am doing. When 1st February came around last week, it was still frickin’ freezing and overcast and dark, and so I just wasn’t in the mood to do any celebrating (well, partly because I had a cold). But today, with above-freezing temperatures and full sunlight for the first time in months, I’m much more inclined to do something for the season.