In the cold Midwestern part of the United States people eagerly await the coming of spring. By early February many are tired of the cold gray snowy days. We celebrate a holiday called Groundhog’s Day on February 2. It is not one of the major holidays you get to take the day off of work or school but too many it is an exciting turning point because it is the half way point between winter and spring. As a gardener I can hardly wait to get out and get my hands dirty in the garden. The story goes if the fat rodent sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter and if he doesn’t spring will come early.
Many believe the celebration of Groundhog’s Day may have his origin in the ancient Irish celebration of Imbolic. (pronounced “im’olk”) or pronounced i-MOLG.) Modern day pagans and wiccans celebrate Imbolc as one of the holidays on the “Wheel of Life.” In ancient times the holiday also was called Brigid’s Day, referring to the Celtic goddess of fertility. The Catholic Church in the 1400’s turned it into a Christian holiday as they did with many pagan celebrations.
Historians believe Imbolc has its beginnings in ancient Ireland, and Scotland dating back to 10,000 BC! Imbolc is an old Irish word referring to sheep’s milk. To the people who lived at that time lactating ewes was a sign of spring’s arrival. Too many, Imbolc was the rebirth of the sun.
In my novels 415 Raspberry Picket Trilogy (415RaspberryPicket.com) Imbolc is the birthday of Uncle Rubus, a great wizard and his young nephew Darach. In the second novel, “The Cursed Seed” the young boy Darach is thrilled to receive on his birthday, his own personal Dragon’s Claw Willow magic wand.
There is very little known how the ancients celebrated Imbolc. Oral history says it was a time to build a bright fire in the hearth, spring cleaning of the house, prepare special foods, watch for signs and omens for the New Year, and lighting candles to honor the return of the sun and warm spring days.
Modern pagans and wiccans and others celebrate this holiday by lighting candles in every room of the house and fixing spicy foods to represent the heat of the sun and consume milk products. They fix spicy foods to honor the sun by using curry, peppers, leeks, and drink spiced wines.
Early Christians celebrated February 2 by going to church and lighting candles blessed by the priest. The candles provided heat as well as were symbolic that Jesus was the light of the world.
In some years by February 2 in my garden snowdrops are starting to push themselves through the snow. Snowdrops are often associated with Imbolc, as well as the herbs of Angelica, Basil. Coltsfoot, Heather, Tansy, and Violets.
Regardless of your tradition or faith, February 2, or Imbolc is a great time for personal reflection and soul searching. It is also a great time to set personal goals. It is a time to plant ‘seeds’ to work on a goal to completion as the days get warmer and longer.
I think February 2 is a fun day to remember and celebrate. It makes us feel good winter is finally winding down. Turn on every light in every room of the house, drink a glass of cold milk, and symbolically drive out the darkness of winter and invite the sun! This year I have a wager the groundhog will not see his shadow and spring is just around the corner.