This is a day for rumination. It’s gray and humid but it’s warm and so you’re left with a feeling of being stuck in the door between Winter and Spring. Imbolc is coming and I sense its nearness like the warmth from a teakettle just coming to a boil. It sits in that doorway between winter and spring, and celebrating it is the centuries-old way of washing away the gloom of winter with new hope.
Nowadays Pagans and Wiccans and Celtic historians are the pretty much the only ones who celebrate it; Roman Catholics ran it through the syncretism machine and it came out the other side as St. Bridgid’s Day. Protestants and Anabaptists don’t really celebrate it, although I maintain they do without knowing. There’s always a big party with an abundance of food and friends, a contest of skill and feats of strength, music and lights. It’s ostensibly about the Super Bowl, but I usually find that it’s about that small part inside all of us that moves in rhythm with the Holy Days. Deep in ourselves is that desire to celebrate, to feast, to welcome hope.
So why do I notice Imbolc at all, and isn’t it very witchy of me and sort of not Christian? Well, my take on the matter is this. I think “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” God created us to enjoy celebrations, and for a Christian to overlook Imbolc is particularly sad. The very name of the festival is from Old Irish term for pregnant lambs.
It’s a whole holiday celebrating the hope of new life and the birth of the lambs. So on Imbolc those of us who follow Him are well within our faith to be celebrating the Birth of The Lamb Of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Pagans and Wiccans point to Groundhog Day, which is always on February 2, as the “new Imbolc” and strictly speaking I guess that’s true, seeing as how Imbolc is 1 February on the calendar. But I sure don’t think it’s an accident that we have ended up finding an excuse for a big party within a week of that date. I think our hunger for feasting, for gathering with friends and loved ones, for lights and music and the carefree spirit is all a hunger for our return to God and the souls who’ve left us.
So I’ll celebrate the Festival of The Birth Of The Lamb happily and with the joy of hope.