Friday 1 February 2019

St Brigid's Day

My year is punctuated by little highlights, occasions to look forward
to and celebrate. I particularly love St Brigid’s Day, it’s now just
around the corner, on February 1st, so I’m all set to celebrate and to
share the story of this feisty woman with my students from all over
the world and everyone else around me. This is a quintessentially
Irish celebration, St Brigid’s Day or Lá Féile Bríde also marks the
beginning of Spring, the season of hope and new life and comes
about half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox,
when days begin to lengthen. In Pagan times it was referred to as
Imbolc or Imbolg which translates literally
to ‘in the belly’. Imbolc is one of the four major fire festivals referred
to in Irish mythology, the others are Bealtaine, Lughnasa and

Brigid, an icon for women was born near Faughart just north of
Dundalk in the 5th Century. She is the goddess of fertility in Celtic
mythology, patron saint of dairy and founded the first monastery in
Ireland in Kildare.

Many legends are associated with Brigid who by all accounts was an
extraordinary woman – a force to be reckoned with, a feminine role
model, well before her time. So I’m overjoyed that at last there is a
movement to elevate St Brigid to here rightful place beside St Patrick
as our female patron saint.

Last year, and once again this year, there will be a celebration of Lá
Féile Bríde at the Irish Embassy in London, a gathering to celebrate
not just St Brigid but the achievements of Irish women around the

Image result for st brigids cross

Just as the shamrock is associated with St Patrick, the little woven
cross, made of rushes is associated with St Brigid and was chosen as
the RTE logo when the station launched in 1961, and it was used

until 1995. Let’s bring it back and display it proudly as a beautiful
symbol of our culture.

Last year, St Brigid’s cross maker extraordinaire, Patricia O’Flaherty,
came over from Ireland clutching a bag of freshly cut rushes to
demonstrate how to make the traditional St Brigid’s cross at the Irish
Embassy in London . She
makes many versions and I was intrigued to learn from her that
originally all counties in Ireland had different patterns which
sometimes even varied from parish to parish.

To invoke Saint Brigid’s blessing we have a little cross made of local
rushes hanging over the door in our micro dairy to protect our small
Jersey herd which produces the most delicious rich milk.

My research into St Brigid, mentioned not only dairy but also honey
and the tradition of eating a big plate of floury boiled potatoes
slathered in rich homemade butter on St Brigid’s Day or St Brigid’s

So here’s a recipe for how to make your own home churned butter… It’s super easy. We use our own cream, but one can of course make
butter with any good rich cream. Just pop it into a bowl, whisk until it
becomes stiff, continue until the butter globules separate from from
the buttermilk. Strain, wash well, salt generously, and pat into little
slabs or butter balls – easy-peasy. Impressive and delicious, even for
chefs, to slather over potatoes or a thick slice of warm soda bread or
spotted dog. 
So let’s all make or buy a little St Brigid’s cross and make St Brigid’s
Day into a real celebration, sharing a traditional meal around the
kitchen table with family and friends.