1/2 February is the most usual date to celebrate Imbolc. This is a Festival of Light halfway between the shortest day of the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox when day and night are equal. It is a ‘Cross Quarter Day’, the others being Beltane at the beginning of May, Lughnasadh at the beginning of August and Samhain at 31 October-1 November. Imbolc is associated with the pagan goddess Brigid. The name Imbolc is derived from the gaelic word ‘oimelc’ meaning ewe’s milk since this is the time when the first lambs are being born.
Brigid is an ancient and powerful Light-Bringer. Her name means ‘Exalted One’ and in distant times she was the mother goddess of many European tribes. Her name appears as Brigid, Bridget, Brighid, Brigde, Brig or Bride. Brigantia, goddess of the Celtic tribe called the Brigantes, is closely associated with Brigid..
The Festival of Imbolc represents Purity, Growth and Renewal, the re-union of the Goddess and the God, Fertility and letting go of the old to make way for the new. It is also a time for blessing seeds and agricultural implements, especially ploughs. As a Festival of Light, candles and bonfires can be lit to celebrate and Brigid’s Crosses can be made from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year.
The Christian church replaced this festival with Candlemas, another Festival of Light.