St. Brigid’s Day is dedicated to the saint called Muire na nGael or the ‘Mary of the Irish’, a designation given to her on account of the adoration and high regard in which she has long been held by the people of this island. The special position attributed to her is reflected even in the name Brigid, which means ‘high’, ‘lofty’, ‘elevated’, or ‘exalted’ one.
St. Brigid’s Day (Gaelic: Lá Fhéile Bríde) is celebrated on February 1st. The Bank Holiday will take place on the first Monday in February each year, except where St Brigid’s day happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that Friday February 1st will be a public holiday.
In Irish folk tradition, the calendar is principally split into ‘Quarter Days’, so called as they divide the year into each of its four seasons of summer (May Day / Bealtaine), autumn (Lammas / Lúnasa), winter (Halloween / Samhain) and, of course, spring (St. Brigid’s Day / Imbolc), which falls on the 1st of February.
A “consensus” among the government was reached, according to the Sunday Times, with employers and trade unions set to name the 10th Bank Holiday after the patron saint as part of the pandemic bonus to thank the public in general, and frontline workers in particular.
In January 2021, Minister of State Martin Heydon submitted a proposal to Government on making St Brigid’s Day a new public holiday.
He said the holiday would help recognise the enormous sacrifices made by Irish people during the Covid pandemic and highlight better times ahead.
St Brigid is considered a patron saint of Ireland and February 1st marks the first day of spring.
Brigid is a Catholic and Orthodox saint. She was a pupil of St. Patrick and became famous for her kindness, mercy, and her miracles. In addition, Brigitte founded Ireland’s most famous mixed (male and female) monastery in County Kildare.
The Bogha Bríde or Brigid’s Day Cross is the symbol of the day. Traditionally, reeds or straws are collected from the fields and crafted into a cross. St. Brigid is Ireland’s first native saint, the most celebrated Irish female saint, and was the Abbess of one of the first convents in Kildare.
Brigid’s cross is cross woven from straw or rushes. It has some variations, but the most popular designs feature a woven diamond in the centre.
Brigid’s cross is typically woven on February 1st, her feast day, as well as the festival of Imbolc in pre-Christian Ireland. Hanging Brigid’s cross from the rafters of a house was believed to bring the blessing and protection of the saint for the remainder of the year.
Brigid’s cross remains a national symbol of Ireland, along with the shamrock and Celtic harp. From 1962 to 1995, it was incorporated into the logo of the national broadcaster, Raidió Teilifís Éireann(RTÉ).
Brigid, spring, you are welcome, come in!