This weekend we celebrate one of the more significant holidays in the world: St. Brigid’s Day on February 1.
Never heard of it? I probably should have said “Celtic world”.
St. Brigid’s Day began as an Irish pagan holiday called Imbolc, which was the beginning of Irish spring (the event, not the soap). As happened a lot, a Christian holiday was laid over top of Imbolc with the canonization of St. Brigid. In an interesting twist, for me anyway, I just discovered St. Brigid is the patron saint of Clan Douglas. Among other things, she is also the patron saint of mariners, printing presses, scholars, travelers and watermen…all things that are important to me. I didn’t know I had a patron saint.
Considering that many of the early settlers to Appalachia were from Ireland and Scotland, it’s a bit surprising that we don’t actually know more about St. Brigid and the Irish spring celebration. It celebrates the arrival of longer days and the coming end of Winter. It is a day of hopefulness.
Next Monday, of course, is the holiday that revolves around the gopher, but celebrates essentially the same thing. It, too, revolves around a religious holiday: Candlemas. This is the day that Jesus was presented to the temple, 40 days after his birth. Exactly how the day got associated with the weather, I have no idea, but a Scottish rhyme says:
If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter’s gone at Yule.
Combining that with a gopher came from the Germans as they considered the hedgehog one of the smartest animals around. If he saw his shadow on Candlemas…you get the idea. When German immigrants moved to Pennsylvania, they saw the gopher and decided it was essentially a cousin to the hedgehog and an American tradition was born.
Last week, I talked about SAD and feeling low because of the winter. Locally, this winter has been relatively mild and I’m not complaining, but I am ready for it to be over. I’m hoping next Monday is a nasty day so the gopher can’t see his shadow and we get on with it. Or, better yet, I think I’ll take the more positive attitude from St. Brigid’s Day and just say, winter is half over and spring is coming.
I’m ready for Spring..