How to Celebrate Imbolc Like a Bad@ss
Don’t let the dark days of winter get you down. Get into a festive mood by observing the festival of Imbolc. We’ll show you how!
Mid-winter can get pretty damn blah. But, fortunately, there’s at least one reason to smile: Imbolc.
Celebrated since at least the 10th century, you can continue the tradition today. We’ll give you a fast intro to Imbolc and then seed your brain with some ideas for how to celebrate Imbolc.
“I’d sit with the men, the women of God, There by the lake of beer, We’d be drinking good health forever, And every drop would be a prayer.” — Saint Brigid’s Prayer
What Is Imbolc (aka Candlemas aka Oimelc)?
First things first, this festival has its fair share of alternate names. Among the more common are:
- Brigid's Day
- Saint Brigid's Day
So don’t get thrown if you see one of Imbolc’s aliases. These different monikers stem from the different traditions — e.g., Christian, Celtic, Gaelic, Wiccan, pagan — from which the festival is observed. Regardless of what you call it, Imbolc has its roots in pre-Christian British Isles but is now celebrated all over the place by all kinds of people in all kinds of ways.
Imbolc is usually on February 1st in the northern hemisphere and August 1st in the southern hemisphere, which marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The festival of Imbolc signifies the coming of spring and at this point of the year days start to noticeably lengthen and lighten.
“So now, as the Maiden form of the Goddess whispers to us of hope and new beginnings at the festival of Imbolc, it is on a cold February morning that you are invited to step onto the ‘Wheel of the Year’.” ― Mrs. Darley's Pagan Whispers by Carole Carlton
10 Ways to Mark the Festival of Imbolc
The Imbolc rituals you choose to celebrate the occasion are totally up to you. But, here are some time-honored ones from various faiths and belief systems. Personalize them and have fun with it — whatever makes you happy!
Craft a Symbol of Brigid
Some Imbolc traditions suggest making and adorning Brideogs (straw or corn dolls) and Brigid crosses. These tokens objects can be decoration or can be invoked in other parts of your festivities. The ye olde days, the dolls were paraded around and then “honored guests” at the holiday feast.
Return to Nature
Specifically, venture to a waterway. Imbolc is big on the concepts of purification, healing, and fertility. So, going to a lake or stream and splashing some of the “holy water” on yourself is a fitting gesture. While in nature, be sure to acknowledge the sacred trees and other plants and collect and trash you see littering the area.
Flicker & Flame Some Fire
Bonfires are a really popular choice. (Aren’t they always, though?) If that’s a no-go, a fireplace fire is a cozy substitute. But you could also simply light some nice candles or spark up some fragrant incense.
Create an Altar
If you already have an altar, you can add in some Imbolc elements: candles, incense, things from nature. Don’t have a home altar? This is a great time to set one up!
Eat It Up
So, what holiday isn’t [largely] about food?! Feasts are a steadfast Imbolc custom. And probably a tasty one, too, given that roasty, buttery/creamy, and carby things tend to dominate Imbolc menus. One cool thing you can do is cook your food using the fire you’ve built.
Get a Jump on Your Spring Cleaning
Declutter the crap. Tidy the messes. Wash what’s dirty. The idea here is to cleanse and clear out your physical and mental spaces so that there’s room for wholesome energy to enter and dwell. Traditionally, this purge-and-purify fest is done prior to the eve of Imbolc.
Enjoy Meaningful Words
You can find scores of poems, prayers, and other texts for Imbolc. These can be recited while lighting your candles or strolling through nature, solo or with your fellow celebrants. Alternatively, feel free to come up with your own powerful prose, wishes, or affirmations for Imbolc.
As hinted a couple of times above, Imbolc is usually celebrated communally. So, rally you’re your crew to socialize, feast, dance around that bonfire, etc.
Imbolc is a perfect time to take a beat to reflect and plan. You can do this in countless ways — like journaling, meditating, or goal-setting. The objective is to set your intentions and then create ways for you to manifest them.
Look the Part
Getting a fresh, new outfit is always an easy way to shift into celebration mode. Whether you’re a party-dress kind of person or a staunch t-shirt devotee, you can find plenty of options to amp your vibe. Hell, even just a new pair of underwear can put you in the right frame of mind!
“Brigit’s holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since she symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the fire of poetic inspiration. Bonfires were lighted on the beacon tors, and chandlers celebrated their special holiday.” — The Witches’ Sabbats
Have a Happy Imbolc People!
Imbolc is an important seasonal festival in many cultures and religions. With its rich and diverse history, there are so many awesome ways to celebrate. So, embrace old traditions and make some new ones, too!