St. Brigid's Day: a new start

Ireland's Second Favorite Saint's Day

Map of Ireland

Map of Ireland.  (www.cia.gov)

 

Abstract

Ireland 's St. Brigid's Day is a holiday that is rarely known outside of Ireland . This paper explains the origins of St. Brigid, beginning with Celtic mythology and through Christianity. Through this time period, St. Brigid's Day emerges and becomes a “new year” for the Irish. This paper explains and interprets many of the celebrations and traditions associated with St. Brigid's Day and explains how St. Brigid's Day evolved through time

Top

 

Figure 2: This is the Catholic Saint Card for Saint Brigid. Figure 3: This is St. Brigid's famous cross.  On St. Brigid's Eve, the Irish put out these crosses and St. Brigid goes from house to house blessing the crosses and the households.

Introduction

In Ireland , Saint Brigid's Day is a celebratory remembrance of the past with a promise of a fresh start. Saint Brigid's Day ties together the Christian religion and the old pagan religion. While Saint Brigid's Day means something different to all and is celebrated differently in households, everyone acknowledges Saint Brigid. Every February 1 st , the Irish remember the past and are encouraged by the future. The Irish celebrated a Brigid for centuries before Christianity. When Catholicism entered Ireland , through syncretism, the Irish borrowed the idea of Celtic Brigid and transformed her into Saint Brigid.

 

Top

Context of Ireland

 

Ireland is located in Western Europe, west of Great Britain . It is approximately the size of West Virginia ( www.cia.gov ). Ireland is famous for the overcast skies. It has warm winters and cool summers. Ireland is almost completely surrounded by water. The majority of Ireland 's terrain is flat plains framed by rolling hills and small mountains.

  Celtic tribes settled on the island in-between 600-150 B.C. England invaded Ireland beginning around 1300. The English introduced their Christian religion to the Celts. Today, the Ireland is predominately Roman Catholic but proud of their Celtic roots. Ireland has been plagued with wars with Northern Ireland for decades. ( www.cia.gov )

Top

Origins of St. Brigid's Day

The earliest celebration of Saint Brigid's Day dates back to the 13 th century. This is due to the Christianity reform that swept through Europe . The earliest Saint Brigid celebrations were very different than today's. Much of the day was spent in the church, worshiping the Lord and Saint Brigid.

Top

Performance

.

Like many Christian holidays, Saint Brigid's day has been adapted for both the religious celebration and just a celebration. The eve of Saint Brigid's Day is very ritualistic. Many local towns elect a Brigid. This is usually a girl between the ages of six and nine. This Brigid travels from house to house, delivering joy and good luck to the households. Families await Brigid's visit, and normally greet Brigid with flowers. Brigid's visit is followed by a large dinner shared with family and friends. Spiced beef is the traditional Saint Brigid dinner.

  Saint Brigid's Day begins early at mass at the local church. The Irish bring in the day celebrating Brigid. After the church service, there is a local pilgrimage to the local well. (Many wells in Ireland are dedicated to Saint Brigid). At the well there are many blessings and prayers.

  Throughout the day there are many prayers requesting the spring. According to the Catholic religion, Saint Brigid helps to control the weather. Many legends believe, “Brigid puts her finger into the ocean on her Day, causing the weather to warm, and her hand in the water during Saint Patrick's Day, making the weather even warmer” (Bonner, 2004).

Top

Artifact

Saint Brigid crosses (figure 3) are prominant of St. Brigid's Day.  St. Brigid was said to weave these crosses.  As a rememberance to her, the people of Ireland weave these crosses.  On St. Brigid's Day it is said that St. Brigid journeys through Ireland's home and blesses the crosses.

Top

Interpretation

Top

Prognosis for St. Brigid's Day

Unfortunately, this celebration is decreasing in popularity. In the past, every town in Ireland partook in the festivities, now few towns celebrate. This is due to the modernization of Ireland 's counties. “In 1900, Ireland was a restless, impoverished, neglected corner of the British Empire . By 2000, it had become the successful Celtic Tiger” ( Britain and Ireland , 75: 2004). An example of a change in Ireland is in the past, people worked close to home in their community, now people commute farther on a daily basis. Ireland is now a mobile society. This is unfortunate because with this change, as with many other cultures, many traditions are lost.

Top

Conclusion

“The assistance and patronage of St. Brigid is not only invoked on her Feast Day, but on many occasions. She was widely worshipped through the Celtic lands, through Christianity, and still today” (Bonner, 2004). The Irish obtained aspects of the Celtic Brigid and transformed her into the beloved saintly figure of the Catholic Church. In the past, St. Brigid's Day was a day of celebration, a day to start new with hope for the future. Although St. Brigid's Day celebrations are declining throughout Ireland , it is still a day where the Irish look to their future but give thanks for their past.

 

Top

Internet References Cited

Top

Peer-Reviewed References Cited

  • .

    2004    Britain and Ireland . History Today , Nov. 2004, Vol. 54 Issue 11: 75.

  •  

    English, Richard.

    2004    Coming to Terms with the Past . History Today , Jul 2004, Vol.54

                 Issue 7: 24-27

     

    Manning, Conleth

    1999    Isle of the Saints/Devoted People . Irish Studies Reviews . Aug, Vol. 7

                Issue 4: 261-264.

    Rafferty, Oliver P.

    2003   Religion in Ireland : Past Present and Future . Irish Theological

               Quarterly .  Winter: Vol. 68 Issue 4: 398.

     

    Santmire, P.

    2002    Celtic Saints and the Ecology of Death . Dialog: A Journey of  

                 Theology . Winter: Vol. 41 Issue 4: 302-310.

  •  

    Turner, Victor and Edith.

    1982    Religious Celebrations . Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual.                   Victor Turner, ed, pp. 201-219. Smithsonian Institution Press,                   Washington.

  •  

Top

Contact Jim Aimers | ©2004 Miami University