The most hopeful day. Today we are halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox. Today is all about the light. The ancient Celts in Ireland called it Imbolc, and celebrated it as a fertility festival, honouring the goddess Brigid. The catholics swiftly made her into St Brigid, as you'd expect.
Brigid, holy or not, is known as the patron saint for good crops and healthy babies, for bountiful milk supplies (both in cows and nursing women), for children born out of wedlock, children born into abusive families, children born after the father has left. She is the patron saint of
blacksmiths, boatmen, brewers, fugitives, and travellers. She looks after midwives, nuns, poets and the
poor. Basically, it's good to have her on your side.
In Germany, this day is candlemas day, which is a much holier and churchy day. But whatever legend the church rulers saw fit, even then it's called festival of lights. So there you have it.
Without much ado or ceremonial intent, went out into the gloomy wet garden and cut a few hazel branches and brought them into the house where they are now in a jug of water on the kitchen table, because that's what you do here.
In Ireland, we would walk down to a river or a well and dip our hands in the water. Don't ask. Of all the strange Celtic traditions, this is the one I buy wholeheartedly.
Anyway, Luke Bloom explains it all here: