Anois teacht an Earraigh

Anois teacht an Earraigh – now comes the Spring.

Tomorrow is February the First – the beginning of Spring and, more importantly for us Irish, St. Brigid’s Day.

Here is an Irish custom for tonight – the Eve of Her Feast:

Leave apiece of cloth / ribbon (brátóg Bríde) outside your house – tie it to the door or lay on a hedge. St. Brigid will bless it tonight. You keep it in the house for the next year and your household will be safe from illness (especially headaches and sore throats!)

This time last year, I wrote the following about St. Brigid’s Day….

Its February 1st – the start of Spring.    Here in Ireland we have another reason for celebration.   This is the feast day of one of our patron saints (St. Brigid shares the honour with St. Patrick and St. Colmcille).

Throughout the country,  towns,  schools,  churches,  crosses,  holy wells and of course females,  are named after Brigid.   It would be very hard to find someone with no connection to the saint (e.g. -my mother’s name is Brigid and I taught in St. Brigid’s Primary School).

17582422980_8b04232100_c(Aer Lingus Airbus 2320 -200  – St Brigid)

So here’s a few things you should know about this amazing woman!

She was born in Faughart,  Co. Louth around 453…

Her father was pagan and her mother his christian slave.

Her father wished her to marry well but she was determined to live a religious life.  She prayed to be made unattractive so that she would have no suitors.   Her prayers were answered and she lost her beauty.   She was eventually allowed to follow her chosen path.   Once she took her final vows,   her beauty was restored!

She wanted to build a church and approached the King of Leinster for a site.  He promised her all the land that could be covered by the cloak she was wearing.  She laid her cloak on the ground and it spread to cover acres of land!

She started a community of women and a monastery.   Her monastery was acclaimed as a centre of pilgrimage,  learning and hospitality until the suppression of the monasteries in the 16th century.

Once she was at the bedside of a dying pagan chieftain and telling him about Christianity.   As she spoke,  she picked some wild rushes and wove a cross.   He asked what she was doing and she explained about Christ on the Cross.  He converted to Christianity before dying.

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It is claimed that she could turn water into beer!

Her name is derived from the Irish word Brígh – meaning power,  strength or ‘exalted one’.  She is known as St. Brigid of Kildare but there are several forms of her name – Brigid,  Bríd,  Bridget,  Breid,  Brigit,  Brighid,  Bridie….

20200128_130803(St. Brigid’s Cross,  Tully,  Co. Dublin)

Traditions

There were many traditions associated with the feast day.   My mother – being ‘Brigid’ -was sent to collect rushes.   She had to stand outside the door until she was called inside:

Gabh ar bhur nglunaibh, fosgail bhur suile, agus leig isteach Bríd”

(Get on your knees,  open your eyes and let in Brigid).

The rushes were used to make crosses which were hung over doors and windows as a sign of protection and left there until the following year.

( I once asked my mum what happened if there was no Brigid in the house.   She thought about it and admitted that she’d no idea – she reckoned, that in the part of Donegal where she grew up,  there was a Brigid in every house so the matter never arose!!!)

In parts of the country,  a bed of rushes was made beside the fire.   If the rushes were disturbed the following morning,  it was believed Brigid had spent part of the night there.

Elsewhere,  a doll (Brídóg) was made of rushes to represent the saint and carried around from house to house.  Brigid was welcomed into the house in the form of the doll and it was hoped she would bless the family with good health and good harvest.

Whilst St. Brigid’s Day no longer has the religious significance of the past,  some traditions have endured – particularly that of making the cross.

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Primarily,  the feast day marks the end of winter and the onset of Spring.

nick-fewings-Xmdjb5lxI58-unsplash

Lá Fhéile Bríde Shona Daoibh go leir

(Happy St. Brigid’s Day!)

Photo accreditation:

Nick Fewings on Unsplash

marloft on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Jez B on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Lawrence OP on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

33 thoughts on “Anois teacht an Earraigh

  1. I had two Auntie Bridie’s, one from each parent, and there was a St. Brigid’s well on my grandfather’s farm from which the local people came to draw water when anyone in the house was sick), but we called one Breege (would that be Brígh?

    1. Breege would be an anglicised phonetic form of Bríd. It was my mum’s birthday during the week and we were laughing at the cards – no two had the same spelling – Brigid, Briget, Bridget, Bridgit……

      1. And did you know there is a St. Bridget in Sweden? Birgitta and its alternate forms Birgit and Britta are fairly common in Scandinavia but most especially in Sweden. I share godparenting with a Swedish Birgetta!

  2. Ah spring. It arrives here somewhat around April fools Day here but might indeed disappear and repair much later!
    Loved learning about the traditions you wrote about. I know Irish family here in Saskatoon (close enough roots they go back/went back yearly to visit grandparents) and indeed they have a Brigitte.

    1. When I say that tomorrow heralds the start of spring Bernie, we’d have no high hopes of Spring weather!!! Its particularly miserable the moment!!! ☔️☔️☔️

  3. We met an Aunt Bridie on Lower Leeson Street in Dublin, when we were on our honeymoon in 1977. On future trips, we have met other Bridies. Having February 1st as the 1st day of spring, shows the Irish optimism, for sure. Given our current coat of winter white, Feb. 1 can not even be treated as the last day of winter. Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day and may give us hope for when spring will return. Shadow or no shadow, it will either be 6 more weeks or 42 more days. Thanks for sharing and have a great Sunday evening Marie. Allan

  4. The 1st of February is a special date in the Irish calendar. For many, it is the feast day of St. Brigid, to others it marks Imbolg, one of the older Celtic quarter days, while for others it announces the start of Spring. For me, it’s a mix of everything, particularly about the new life re-emerging after the month of darkness and poor weather.
    Hard to believe that it’s the end of January, Marie, and it’s so strange seeing St. Valentines stuff in the shops. We went for a walk around the neighbourhood, and were pleased to see the very first snowdrops peeping through the lawn. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

    1. So many of our special dates are rooted in Celtic and pagan tradition… How lovely to see the snowdrops…. we need some hope don’t we Aiva! XXXMarie

  5. These stories remind me of my time in Ireland. There are so many myths and legends that are more or less intertwined with the Catholic religion which gives them a veneer of truthfulness. Thank you for telling the story of St. Brigit, as for the spring on February 1st, this does not apply to Toronto 🙁

    1. The early church wisely blended holy days with existing Celtic rituals with the intention of bringing the pagan Irish on board….. As for spring beginning on Feb 1st …. they need to rethink that one!!!!

  6. WOW! That’s so interesting. I didn’t know any of that stuff. I have a friend here of German extraction called Birgit. Would that be another name for Brigid? Or am I on the wrong track completely?? Thanks, Mel

    1. Not sure -The only derivative of the name beginning with Bi that I can think of is Biddy – The most common European version is Brigette…. XXXMarie

  7. Lovely post, Thank you Marie. I did laugh when you said you asked your mother, what if there was no Brigid in the house! Spring is stirring, the bulbs are staring to poke their shoots above the ground.

    1. There was definitely a Brigid and Mary in every house!!! After that… maybe Kathleen, Margaret…. Let’s hope the signs of spring are an omen for the months ahead – we could do with a lift! XXXMarie

  8. Hi Marie,
    I enjoyed reading your piece this morning especially the reference to your mother. I feel the 1st. of February brings a sence of hope and positivity. Anois teacht an Earraidh beidh an la ag dull chun sinne ,is tar eis na Feile Bride ardoigh me mo sheol.
    The weather this morning seems to be doing it’s best to show an improvement. Unfortunately we won’t be raising “our sails” for some time to come but let’s hope we get to venture outside the 5km. restriction soon.

    1. Not sure about that weather Bar – there was a 30 second glimpse of blue this morning and that was it!!
      Tar éis na Féil Bríde ardóigh mé mo sheol – after St. Brigid’s Day I’ll raise my sail….. Naw – ain’t raising those sails anytime soon but yes – right now I’d settle for an extended leash…. and a pub lunch!!!!

    1. Oops – shouldn’t have done that!!! For you non Irish readers, our Minister for Health is getting a slagging in the media for replying to a text re Covid from the Chief Medical Officer with … yes …. 👍 (😅 😂 🤣)

  9. Very interesting Marie, there is always some history behind every special day! But spring, oh dear spring how I miss you!! We still have to do through half the winter LOL LOL

    1. That is odd because Birmingham had a huge Irish community. She was some woman – maybe she was too liberal for them!!! 😅 😂

  10. Wow very intriguing! I didn’t know about St Briget! Does everyone in your family still speak Irish? I tried learning it on Duolingo and found it very difficult! And I am generally good with languages!

    1. Everyone studies Irish at school – to varying degrees of success! We were both primary teachers so had to have Irish to qualify. Both my parents were native speakers but there’s very little Irish spoken now in their part of Donegal. Well done for trying – its a difficult language to master although its so lovely to hear it spoken. XXXMarie

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