• Imbolc and the St Brigid's Cross

    Imbolc – An Ancient Celtic Festival

    Imbolc – A Celebration of Spring

    Updated 1st February 2021

    Imbolc or Imbolg, strongly intertwined with La Fhéile Bhríde (the festival of St Brigid or St. Brigid’s Day), is an ancient Celtic festival dating back as far and possibly even further than the 10th century. It’s one of the four major Celtic festivals which also include Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain.

    It marks the beginning of the end of winter and celebrates the first tentative signs of spring and by God do we need that this year!

    Imbolc or Imbolg literally means ‘in belly’ and refers to the fertility explosion in both the animal and plant kingdom around this time of the year.

    Common Imbolc Customs


    It was often marked with bonfires ande lighting of candles both signifying the much hoped for sunshine that was surely to come.


    Processions were also held across the Celtic areas of north Europe. Some continue to this day in small pockets of Celtic Europe. See below for details of the annual Imbolc procession in Killorglin, Co. Kerry.

    Brigid Crosses

    In Ireland, people would often make Brigid Crosses of rushes or straw and hang them on their front doors, this was to bring good luck, prosperity and fertility to the households.

    It is also traditionally believed that the Saint Brigid’s Cross protected the house from fire and evil and its shape possibly derives from the pagan sun wheel.

    In Christian mythology, St. Brigid and her cross are linked together by a story where she weaved this form of cross at the death bed of a pagan chieftain who upon hearing what the cross meant, asked to be baptised.

    Children still make them in schools around Ireland today.

    How to Make a St Brigid’s Cross

    Brigid the Celtic Goddess

    Brigid (Brigit, Brighid, Bride, Bridget, Bridgit, Brighde, Bríd) was the Celtic goddess of spring, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing and was later Christianised as St Brigid.

    Painting of St Brigid by Patrick Joseph Tuohy

    Modern Day Celebrations of Imbolc or St Brigid’s Day

    You won’t find too many processions around Ireland these days but the town of Killorglin near Killarney in County Kerry has revitalised the tradition and celebrates ‘Biddy’s Day’ every year usually holding a torchlight procession through the town along with plenty of traditional Irish music events in various venues and pubs.

    There’s a prize for the best Brídeóg, a straw doll representation of Bríd made from rushes or reeds and clad in bits of cloth, flowers or shells, and the Brídeóg or Biddy visits houses throughout the area carried by a group of straw boys akin to the Wren boy parades just after Christmas day.

    Graphic logo for Biddy's Day Imbolc in red, white and green, straw doll motif

    Weather Predictions

    At one time, weather predictions were also made based on how the weather was on the 1st of February.

    If it was sunny it meant a long wintery spring ahead but if the weather was terrible the population could breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to an early spring and better weather to come.


    Brigid’s Cross courtesy of Louise Price and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

    St. Brigid by Patrick Joseph Tuohy [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    For more information on Biddy’s Day, click here

    Posted by McNeela

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