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Imbolc /Lights (cont)Brigid Cross

Traditional symbols for this day include any variation of the Bride's Cross, which is a solar symbol with either three or four legs. It's traditionally a woven creation, of reeds or corn-stalks, but can be made from anything as long as the over and under, warp and weft effect is kept. As previously mentioned, candles and lights are key to this festival. This is an Air festival so it's more about the light of the returning sun than the heat of it. In addition to Blackthorn, Silver Birch is a sacred tree for this time of year.. In terms of colours, we always go with a light blue and white. Not pale and wishy-washy, but a vibrant pale blue, if you see what I mean!

Food on this day is associated with milk – partly due to the sheep lactating reference which may be wrong – but also because Brighid is a childbirth goddess. We tend to have a Pesto based dish on this day as it’s one of the few easily found foods that features ewe's milk! In the UK at least, though, some of the larger supermarkets are now offering sheep’s milk yoghurt. In Ireland, drop scones are known as Bridie Cakes. These are really good fun to make with children as it's a simple recipe that they can mix up and then let a grown up cook. Also, they're a great finger food that most kids love! The other food I put in my book was a ploughman's lunch. When I think about the festivals, I always ask myself what Neolithic Man would have been eating. At this end of the year, there would have been the end of all the preserved meats left, along with pickled vegetables and chutneys. Add in some fresh spring greens (might be a bit of a stretch in early Feb) and a home made bread roll, and you've got a ploughman's lunch. Even boiled eggs wouldn't be too far off the mark either!

So, that’s my take on Imbolc. A returning of life to the world after the cold, inward looking rest of winter. A time to celebrate the very beginning of spring and longer, lighter days.

Graham Miller

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