|Photo by Sonja Bannick|
Imbolc, celebrated on the second of February, is the ancient Irish holiday that commemorates this in-between time. Originally a festival celebrating ewes’ milk, this was the time of year that pregnant sheep started lactating, which meant it was a good time to make cheese. Most people, though, have never even seen a ewe, let alone any other type of lactating livestock. Although ancient Ireland is worlds away from the contemporary United States, Imbolc still holds important lessons for everyone.
It’s still cold outside, or if it’s not cold, it’s still grey and brown and dreary. Because of the blustery weather, this is a good festival to spend with the family, focusing on hearth and home. It is a good time of year to start working on spring cleaning and to start thinking of the tasks and projects that need to be done once spring is fully here.
While Yule is a fire festival that is bright and dynamic and exciting, Imbolc, while still a festival of flames, is more quiet and reflective. It’s a good time to sit in front of the fireplace, or in front of a flickering candle, and focus on arts, crafts and other creative projects that you enjoy doing.
Many of us have no idea how our food gets from the farm to our homes, but Imbolc might be a good time to honor livestock and crops even if we don’t have any of our own. Traditional holiday foods are milk and cheese, so treat your family to something local, organic, free range and delicious.
February for many is still the winter, but the tradition of Groundhog’s Day has its roots in the ancient Pagan world when people would look to nature for omens to see just how long winter would last. Maybe the groundhog isn’t afraid of his shadow on February second, but rather the cold weather the winter goddess promises to bring in February!