Transitions and Traditions
Ireland was Christianized, veneration of the Pagan Goddess
Brigid was transformed into that of St. Brigit, said to be the
human daughter of a Druid. St. Brigit became a saint after her
"death" and was supposedly converted and baptized by
St. Patrick. Pagan lore was incorporated into the Christian
traditions and legends associated with Her as a saint. For
example, as St. Brigit, She had the power to appoint bishops
and they had to be goldsmiths. She was associated with
miracles and fertility. Into the 18th century a women's only
shrine was kept to her in Kildare (meaning Church of the Oak)
in Ireland. There, nineteen nuns tended her continually
burning sacred flame. An ancient song was sung to Her: "Brigid,
excellent woman, sudden flame, may the bright fiery sun take
us to the lasting kingdom." Brigid/St. Brigit was said to
be the inventor of whistling and of keening.
Ireland, this holy day is called Imbolc and begins at sunset
on February 1 continuing through sunset February 2nd. There
are several different derivations offered for the name Imbolc:
from Ol-melc (ewe's milk) because the ewes are
lactating at this time, from Im-bolg (around the belly)
in honor of the swelling belly of the earth goddess, and from folcaim
(I wash) because of the rites of purification which took place
at this time. All of these explanations capture the themes of
celebrate St. Brigid's day, people put out a loaf of bread on
the windowsill for the Saint and an ear of corn for her white
cow, offerings for the grain goddess like the loaf buried in
the first furrow. A small quantity of special seeds are mixed
with those to be sown. Wheat stalks are woven into X-shaped
crosses to serve as charms to protect home from fire and
HIghlands, women dress the corn doll or last sheaf (from
Lammas or the autumn equinox) in a bridal gown and put her in
a basket, which is called the Bride's bed or Brigid's Bed. A
wand, candle or other phallic object is laid across her and
Bride is invited to come, for her bed is ready.
welcomed into the house with the saying, "Bride! Come in,
the bed is made! Preserve the House for the Triple
Goddess!" Another Scottish Gaelic Invocation runs as
"May Brigit give blessing to the house that is here;
Brigit, the fair and tender, Her hue like the cotton-grass,
Rich-tressed maiden of ringlets of gold."
was a Scottish Candlemas custom whereby children would bring
money to buy candles for the schoolroom. Later this developed
into gifts for the schoolmaster himself - the boy giving the
largest gift being appointed Candlemas King. He reigned for
six weeks with certain privileges including being able to
remit punishments. In a mixed school a Candlemas Queen might
also be appointed.
France and Canada this day is known as La Fête de la
Chandeleur. Traditionally crepes are eaten to insure a
bountiful year. You can find recipes of crepes here.
des crêpes à la chandeleur
apporte un an de bonheur.
"Eating crêpes the day of la Chandeleur will bring
a year of happiness"
corn spirit was represented in some places by the pig and
records the relevance of the spirit at sowing time as well as
at harvest; and for crops generally, not just corn. Thus at
Candlemas in parts of Germany people would eat pea soup and
dried pig ribs, the ribs afterwards being hung in the room
till sowing time when they would be put into the sown field or
in the seed-bag as a protection against earth-fleas and moles,
and to cause the flax to grow well.
England a specially large candle might be lit on Candlemas
night and the family gather round it, feasting until it burned
is the time for taking down, with suitable ceremony, the
Yuletide greenery if it has not already been removed. On the
Welsh borders, after the greenery was taken down a bowl of
snowdrops might be brought in to give the house "the
white purification" although snowdrops in the house at
any other time were considered to bring bad luck. Snowdrops
were also called Candlemas Bells or Purification Flowers.
Spain it is known as La Candelaria. This is the celebration of
the ritual purification of Mary, which, as required by Jewish
law, took place forty days after the birth of her child. In
towns all over Spain, parades, feasts, and general carousing
honor the anniversary of the day Mary and Joseph took Jesus to
the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth, in order
to perform the required sacrifice of purification. Called
"the feast of candles," the reference to light in La
Candelaria is a reminder of the light of the baby Jesus.
Wherever it's celebrated, Candelaria is a time of
purification. And at its pagan roots, the day marks the middle
of Winter and the promise of spring. But if you could visit
all the towns in Spain today, you'd see the variety of ways
it's celebrated around the country.
Start your journey in Madrid, whose celebration of La
Candelaria is one of the most popular in the country. Clowns
dressed as Andalusian farmers bring out "vaquillas"
(young bulls), made of wooden frames with two horns.
"Bullfighters" from Manila, dressed in multicolored
silk pants, carry lassos and wear paper flowers and belts, and
perform hilarious mock bullfights around town all day long. At
the end of the day in the town plaza, the bull is
"killed," and sangria is communally passed around,
symbolizing the blood of the bull. Dancing, feasting, and
horse races also occur in almost all nooks and crannies of
Almonacid del Marquesado, La Endiablada (The Fiend) pays
tribute to the Virgin Mary, and appears the following day when
the feast of St Blaise is celebrated. This feast-day is
structured in an unusual yet precise way. The cowbells ring
out ceaselessly, becoming even more prominent once inside the
church. Hundreds of "devils" dress in colorful
outfits and jump and dance through the streets. The devils
(children, youths, adults and old people) are present at the
processions both for Candlemas and St Blaise, running and
jumping and raising their arms whilst staring obsessively at
USA the Groundhog day is celebrated on February 2nd. Click here
for all that you wanted to know about the Ground Hog Day.
China the Chinese New year is celebrated around the same time.
Many of the rituals like annual cleaning and purification are
similar to those of Candlemas. Click here
for more resources.