Our Female Patron Saint

Today is Saint Brigid’s Day, February 1st, one of the four patron saints of Ireland.  This day is known as Lá Fhéile Bríde.

February 1st is also the day of the Celtic Feast Imbolc.  It was also associated with the Celtic Goddess Bridget.  Many of the Celtic feast days were adopted by the early Christians.

Traditionally on the eve of St. Brigid’s Day a cross would be made.  It was said that Brigid was converting a dying pagan to Christianity and in order to explain the faith to him she needed a cross.  The only thing to hand were some rushes which she made into a cross. and then proceeded to explain certain aspects of Christian faith to the man.

 

St. Brigid’s Crosses were traditionally given to neighbours and friends as gifts.  If a St. Brigid’s Cross was placed above the door it meant that everyone was welcome.  It was also thought to protect the home.

Brigid had been a milkmaid prior to becoming a nun.  It was said that she could get more milk from a cow than anyone else.  She used travel the country as a nun converting the Irish to Christianity accompanied by a white cow with red ears.

A piece of white ribbon was left outside for the saint to bless.  This was then kept near the hall door for the rest of the year.  It was also the day when food was given to those who didn’t have any.

The special meal on the day always had pancakes to signify the dairy link to St. Brigid. These pancakes however were served with butter or fresh cream as opposed to the tradition of lemon and sugar on Pancake Tuesday.

In case St. Brigid on her travels calls to your door it is traditional to leave bread and butter on the window sill and some corn for the cow.

Lá Fhéile Bríde shona dhuit. Happy St. Brigid’s Day.

 

 

Traditions

During the last few weeks I have been hearing about Christmas traditions. I have been hearing about how baking is an integral part of the Christmas period. That decorating the tree is a special night. That getting that first Christmas card heralds the start of Christmas for others. The Christmas Movie is a night for chilling. The Christmas music is separate to Christmas carols. The Christmas poems. The Advent calendar and essential part of the Christmas. Visiting the crib in churches. Putting up the family crib.

The thing which has struck me is how diverse the traditions are yet there is a link. Practically each household has a different emphasis for each of the traditions. Each household is unique in this regard.

What I have learnt is that each household whether there is one person or twenty people living there have over the years absorbed traditions which suits that household and those traditions have developed. Some traditions have remained while others have been dropped for whatever reason.

Dropping a tradition can be hard especially if it is out of your control. However, it is amazing how quickly one can adapt to what is in essence a new tradition. Also adding in a new tradition can enhance the traditions of the household. Being open to new traditions and gradually absorbing them can re invigorate the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is a unique experience for each individual. No one tradition is more important than another but the meaning of a tradition can be very personal and last for a long number of years.