For the first year, St Brigid’s Day is now a bank holiday in Ireland.
St. Brigid’s Day will now be an annual bank holiday, held on the first Monday of February every year, except where St Brigid’s day happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that Friday February 1st will be a public holiday.
St. Brigid's Day (Gaelic: Lá Fhéile Bríde) is celebrated on February 1st. St Brigid is considered a patron saint of Ireland and February 1st marks the first day of spring, in the Celtic Calendar – which tends to be followed in Ireland - instead of the meteorological calendar. The meteorological calendar places March as the season day of Spring.
Pictured above: St Brigid's Holy Well, Kildare, Ireland.
Who was St. Brigid? An ancient Celtic goddess or a Christian saint?
A Celtic Goddess
Held midway between the Winter and Spring Equinox, St Brigid's Day has been celebrated by the Irish for centuries-- before Ireland was a Christian country, it is believed to have celebrated the pagan goddess Brigid, and was also known as Imbolc, one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals, the other three being Bealtaine (pronounce: beowl – ta – na), Lughnasadh (pronounced: loo-na-sa) and Samhain – the origins of Halloween – pronounced sow-in.
One of Ireland’s three Patron Saints
Ireland has three official patron saints, Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and Saint Columba - also known as Saint Colmcille. However, Saint Patrick is the primary patron saint of Ireland.
Who was St. Brigid?
The Irish name Brigid can also be spelled Brigit or Bridget. Little is known about her life but from legend, myth, and folklore. According to tradition St. Brigid of Kildare, was born around the year 451 AD in Faughart near Dundalk, Co. Louth, and died c. 525 in Kildare.
Bridgid’s father was a wealthy chieftain named Dubtach. It is thought that Brigid's mother, Brocseach, was a slave in Dubtach's household. When Brigid reached marriageable age, she decided to enter the religious life rather than get married. She travelled to Croghan Hill in Co. Meath and asked St. Maccaille, who was a bishop and had a church there, to admit her into religious life. She was accompanied by seven other young girls. Brigid founded the first convent in Ireland on Croghan Hill, Co. Westmeath. According to legend, Brigid travelled around the country founding convents and performing miracles.
St. Brigid’s Cross
St Brigid is accredited with first creating the unique cross which bears her name. This cross is normally hand created from rushes however occasionally straw is also used. The distinctive St. Brigid’s Cross design, made from woven rushes, is thought to keep evil fire and hunger from the homes in which it is displayed. Saint Brigid is said to have been the one who came up with this distinct cross symbol, and that the design was inspired by the pagan sun wheel.
An Irish myth?
Historians have noticed that there seem to be similarities between Saint Brigid and the goddess Brigid, who appears in pre-Christian Irish mythology. Like the saint, the goddess is associated with poetry, healing, smithcraft, protection and animals.
Whilst many historians believe that Saint Brigid of Kildare was a real person that existed, it’s believed that early Christians in Ireland combined traits and stories of the goddess with the nun to make the transition to Christianity more acceptable.
Saint Brigid’s feast day is 1st February, which was originally the date of a pagan festival called Imbolc.
First Irish bank holiday named after a woman
We are looking forward to a much-welcomed additional bank holiday in Ireland! Brigid’s Day – Lá Fhéile Bríde – continues to be marked by the popular tradition of making St Brigid’s crosses and heralds the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. The bank holiday also coincides with the ancient pagan festival of Imbolc. The other Celtic festivals (Bealtaine in May, Lughnasa in August and Samhain in October) are already public holidays.