Imbolc is one of the four cross-quarter days, along with Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain. It is the first sign of spring approaching, a time for awakening after the long days of winter. The festival falls midway between the winter solstice and vernal (spring) equinox of the Celtic calendar and is celebrated on the 1st February in our modern calendar. The festival honoured the pagan goddess Brigid and is now commonly known as St.Brigid's Day.
Imbolc or 'i mbolg' (in the belly) represented the time when ewe's gave birth and lambs were born - Ewes would begin lactating, in turn providing people with the first fresh milk of the year. The celebration also coincided with the onset of the Blackthorn blooming. Imbolc represented new life and a new year of light.
Brigid, was a pagan goddess who was celebrated at this time. A goddess of fire and flame, inspiration, smith craft, poetry, healing waters and birth. Brigid represents change and transformation.
Brigid was such an important figure, that the Catholic church canonised the pagan goddess, knowing that they needed to hold on to her and the festival of Imbolc which was so important to people - This way it would make conversion to christianity easier for those who were in doubt!
The cross of Saint Brigid (see below) may have its roots in pre-Christian times, however it is now considered more of a Christian symbol. A symbol of protection, traditionally left outside the home for Brigid to bless on the eve of Imbolc. It is then brought into the house and hung above the threshold on St. Brigid's day, left there throughout the year to protect the hearth and home.