I used to love Groundhog Day. In the deep of winter, you can at least begin to think about spring! Of course, when the critter foretells six more weeks of winter, it’s a bit of a blow. But the conversation starts to shift and the energy of renewal begins to rise.
Groundhog Day, observed on February 2, is a silly, modern expression of age-old celebrations that mark the first inklings of spring. Many pre-Christian European cultures celebrated this time of year. For Christians, it is St. Brigid’s Day, which comes from the ancient Celtic festival honoring the powerful Brigid, goddess of creation, childbirth, poetry, fire and light, healing, and prophecy. As I don’t trace any lineage to the Celts, I prefer to think of this celebration as “first spring.”
For a long time, this sabbat didn’t resonate with me. It was hard to really feel like spring was beginning to peak its head out from under the blanket of snow. If I marked it at all, I just went through the motions. Imbolc never seemed as exciting or sacred as, say, the solstices. But then, one cold day in early February…I saw it. Just one. A little bud emerging out of the end of one branch, on one tree.
It is true. Spring is coming.
First spring tells us that rebirth is real. Renewal is happening, whether or not we realize it. The earth is working her sacred magic deep in the veins of trees and plants and dirt and animals. There is reason to hope.
First spring teaches us to pay attention to the details. It’s easy to get lost in the blinding snow of our daily lives, stresses, and schedules. But take some time to look – really look – at the small reminders of joy that that are all around us. These are proof of life.
So I’ve come to love Imbolc. I still don't think it shares the drama of the winter solstice. But for me, Imbolc is a lovely little celebration in which I start to expand into the coming spring. I buy fresh flowers, open the windows for a bit, and maybe…sometimes…do some spring cleaning to freshen up my home. With so much sadness, fear, and anger in the world, Imbolc reminds us that the light is growing and warmth will soon be here.