February 1st is Saint Brigid Day, the only female patron saint of Ireland.
Everyone is familiar with St. Patrick’s Day but how many of you know about St. Brigid’s Day?
St Brigid's Day or Lá Fhéile Bríde as it is known in Gaelic, which lands on 1 February each year, also marks the first day of spring in the Gaelic calendar.
Who was St Brigid and how is the day traditionally celebrated?
Saint Brigid gained prominence as a devout Christian and miracle-worker throughout her life, with many converting to Christianity thanks to her incredible feats.
St Brigid was also a fierce protector of women, with many legends depicting her of saving innocent women from death, assault or being framed, and even, on one occasion, healing two girls' muteness.
Brigid swore herself to a life of chastity, promising her virginity to God. One man is said to have told her that the beautiful eye within her head "would be betrothed to a man though you like it or not"-- with that, Brigid pulled out her own eye.
Incredibly, when Brigid became a nun and took her vows of chastity, her own missing eye returned to her as though it had never been lost.
She founded several monasteries and a convent in County Kildare, with the legend going that the town of Kildare was built around this convent.
Ireland has celebrated Saint Brigid's Day with several firmly held traditions-- despite Brigid being dead for over 1500 years ago, many of these traditions are still observed today.
The most famous of these traditions are the making of the Saint Brigid's Cross, a unique cross made from fresh rushes or reeds which children are taught how to make in school.
Traditionally, the crosses are made before Saint Brigid's Day and then brought to the church on 1 February to be blessed.
The crosses are then hung in people's homes, where they are believed to bring good luck and prevent fire and hunger of those inside. The crosses hang for a year, until new Saint Brigid's Crosses are created the next year-- the old ones are then burned in the fire.
In recent years, St. Brigid’s Day has become a way to celebrate all Irish Women and their accomplishments.
Today the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, issued a special message to mark St. Brigid’s Day. He recalled the origins of the Feast Day, highlighting the influence that St. Brigid has had on Irish society, and noting that her examples as a strong female voice in a male dominated world can inspire us also in present times.
My good friend, Sinéad Moss, has shared her grandma’s Armagh Potato Apple Griddle Cake recipe. Served with cream, it makes a delicious treat for high tea and of course, don’t forget to make a pot of Irish Breakfast Blend tea to go with it.