Tag Archives: Spring Celebrations

Imbolc and Candlemas: Spring Growth

Brighid’s Mantle by Jen Delyth featured in the Celtic Mandala 2021 wall calendar.

Last week we looked at the Hindu festival of early spring. This week we welcome the early spring with a few British Isles holidays in honor of new growth: Imbolc and Candlemas. Celebrated on February 1 and 2, they fall halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and can be considered the beginning of spring.

Imbolc is the Celtic name for the holiday celebrated on February 1. The name is alternately derived from words that refer to washing and pregnant bellies and ewe’s milk, because this is the time when lambs are born out in the fields and the earth is prepared for sowing, a time to ask for protection for young animals and tender crops.

February 1 is also the feast day of St. Brigid, who began her life as a pagan goddess and ended up a Christian saint. The goddess, Brigid or Bride, was a fire and fertility goddess with a temple at Kildare where an eternal flame burned, tended by vestal virgins. The saint, Brigid, was born in the fifth century and established the first monastery in Ireland at (where else?) Kildare. Many of the saint’s legends resonate with the qualities and aspects of the goddess. St. Brigid is often associated with light and fire, she multiplies butter and milk, she brings people sheep and cattle, and she can control the weather. To celebrate St. Brigid’s day, people leave a loaf of bread on the windowsill for the saint and an ear of corn for her white cow. Wheat weavings called “Brigid’s crosses” serve as charms to protect homes from fire and lightning.

February 2 is known as Candlemas in the Christian church, thanks to a passage from Luke 2:21 in which the baby Jesus is heralded as “a light for revelation” when Mary goes to the temple for the rite of purification required for women 40 days after giving birth to a baby boy. The spark of the candle burning in the darkness becomes the symbol of new life. Candles are brought to church to be blessed on this day and taken home to serve as protection from disasters. In Hungary, according to Dorothy Spicer in The Book of Festivals, February 2 is called “Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman.” In Poland, it is called “Mother of God Who Saves Us from Thunder.”

In North America we celebrate February 2 by observing a groundhog who predicts the weather for the upcoming 40 days by rousing from hibernation to check out the sunshine. If he sees his shadow (meaning it’s a sunny day), he goes back inside and winter continues. If he stays out, then spring will come early.

If you are lucky at Candlemas you can see the stirrings of spring. Here in Seattle, the witch hazel and the boxwood are blooming, perfuming the air with sweet scents. Snowdrops (the flower of St. Brigid) are opening their snowy white bells. In colder climates, you might look for signs of a thaw or just treasure the extra few minutes of light each day.

Originally published January 2015. 


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald was a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shared her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. Waverly passed away in December 2019 and is remembered for being kind, talented, and generous—especially in the aid she provided to many writers, both aspiring and well-established, with her wellspring of knowledge.

 

 


Sign up now…receive-news-3

Floralia: May Day’s Origins

New for 2017 — Image from our Bloom 2017 wall calendar featuring photographs by Ron van Dongen. Click image for more info.

Having just named my puppy Flora, I’m more inclined than usual to celebrate Floralia, the Roman holiday that’s most likely the origin of May Day, the flowery holiday that initiates the summer season.

The festival honored Flora, the Sabine goddess who represented the reproductive abundance of nature, the sexual aspects of plants, and the attractiveness of flowers. The celebrations, which began on April 28 and went on for six days and nights, included games, pantomimes, plays, and stripteases. According to Suetonius in CE 68, the entertainment included a tightrope-walking elephant. Continue reading

Terminalia: Honoring Boundaries

Environmental Art 2017 wall calendar

Image from our Environmental Art 2017 wall calendar. PaperBridge © Steve Messam / stevemessam.co.uk.

In ancient Rome, February 23 marked the end of the year and became a time to honor Terminus, the god of boundaries. Neighbors met at the boundary stones between their properties, with women bringing torches ignited on their hearths, sons bringing baskets of produce from the property, and daughters bringing special honey cakes.

The women kindled twin altar fires made of neatly interlaced sticks. The sons held their baskets over the fires, and the girls shook them three times to scatter their contents into the flames, then fed the cakes to the fire. Employees stood by dressed in white, wine in hand. Continue reading

Abu Simbel Festival — Celebrating the Sun in Egypt

Image by Alice Kelley from our Fractal Cosmos 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more info.

Image by Alice Kelley from our Fractal Cosmos 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more info.

As a calendar company, we love learning more about holidays and celebrations around the world. Today, February 22, is the Abu Simbel Festival in Cairo Egypt.

This festival celebrates the two days of the year on which the light of the rising sun can reach the 180-foot deep innermost chambers of Abu Simbel, the great temple of Ramses II, in Egypt. The temple was designed so that only on two days—February 22 and October 22—does the sun shine on the four gods in the sanctuary: Ptah, Amen-Re, Ramses, and Re-Horakhty. This temple, the most colossal in Egypt, was built by Ramses II between 1300 and 1233 B.C.E., and is famous for its four 65-foot statues of the seated Ramses. It is actually two temples—one for Ramses and one for queen Nefertiti—and is extraordinary for its grandeur, beauty, and history. It was unknown to the European world until Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt found it in 1812. The Italian Giovanni Belzoni excavated the entrance and explored the temple in 1816. In 1964, when the new Aswan Dam was to be built, creating a lake that would have drowned the temple, it was cut into 2,000 pieces and reassembled at a site about 180 feet higher. Continue reading

Chinese New Year: The Lunar New Year

Gardens of the Spirit 2016 wall calendar by Amber Lotus Publishing

Image by John Lander from our Gardens of the Spirit 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more.

One of the many new years in the year, the Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year occurs on the second new moon following the winter solstice (February 8 in 2016). There are many traditions and variations for celebrating. Preparations usually begin two weeks ahead (during the waning moon) as people pay debts, clean homes, return borrowed items, and make offerings to the household gods.

New Year’s Day is sometimes called the Day of Beginning or the Day of Three Beginnings (of the year, of the season, and of the lunar month). People put up talismans—auspicious words cut out in red paper, sometimes more than a foot long, which are pasted up on the fronts of gates or front doors. Continue reading

Imbolc and Candlemas

"Dance of Life" by Jen Delyth from the Celtic Mandala 2015 wall calendar

“Dance of Life” by Jen Delyth from the Celtic Mandala 2015 wall calendar

Last week we looked at the Hindu festival of early spring. This week we welcome the early spring with a few British Isles holidays in honor of new growth: Imbolc and Candlemas. Celebrated on February 1 and 2, they fall halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and can be considered the beginning of spring. Continue reading

Vasant Panchami: A Celebration of Spring

Anjali Mudra greeting card by Duirwaigh Studios

The fifth day after the new moon of January (January 29 in 2020) marks the first day of spring in the Hindu holiday calendar and is celebrated in India and Nepal. Yellow is the auspicious color to wear:  the color of happiness and the color of the mustard that is blooming at this time. (In my neighborhood in Seattle, witch hazel is already unfurling its yellow fragrant petals.) Continue reading