Imbolc is an Irish/Gaelic quarter day festival celebrated between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox around February 2 to honor the first hints of spring.
The name Imbolc is a bit of a mystery. Some scholars say that it means “in the belly” which referred to the pregnancy of ewes. Since this was the time of the birthing for the ewes, this makes sense. And others say it means to wash or cleanse such as a ritual cleansing.
The Goddess Brigid was the deity of honor for this celebration. Brigid represented the Spring season which includes fertility. She is also known for her healing attributes.
The customs around this celebration revolve around fertility, healing, and springtime. A custom that has carried over to modern times is Spring Cleaning. After the long, cold, closed up house with the smell of smoke from the fireplace, the house is in need of a good cleaning and airing out. The same is true today. And what better motivation to clean then to do it for the goddess Brigid before she visits your house.
Other customs include making Brigid dolls. This was done by the menfolk and symbolized fertility. Brigid crosses were popular also. It was used for not only decoration but symbolized Brigid’s protection of hearth and home and healing blessings. Divination was also done for the purpose of knowing the future health of the family, livestock, and crops for the coming growing season. There are many other traditions and I encourage you to investigate them for yourself.
And of course, what is a festival without a feast and socialization. This holiday was eventually taken over and the customs and stories replaced by Christian concepts and is now known as St. Brigid’s Day or Candlemass. Many cultures still celebrate the original meaning today.