February first is Imolc or Candlemas, the first day of spring.
In American culture we count the season’s beginning on the quarter days, the Solstices and Equinoxes. In Gaelic tradition, the beginning of the season comes on the cross-quarter days, the midpoints between Solstices and Equinoxes.
The Gaelic way makes more sense to me because it goes with the changes of the light. Warm days or freezing, rain or snow can come and go three seasons of the year in Colorado—Rocky Mountain springtimes are notoriously fickle—but the changes of the light are reliable.
So, for me, at this midpoint, February first, spring begins. The light is now the same as it was on the last cross-quarter day, November first, Samhain or All Hallows. We have just come through the darkest three months of the year.
Deep in the earth seeds are stirring. Some bulbs are even pushing their first new green shoots up into the lengthening sunlight. The light lingers longer in the late afternoon, and sunrise comes earlier, suffusing the eastern sky with its rosy glow.
This season has been celebrated for hundreds of years. In Gaelic lands, Imolc was a time to honor the Goddess Brigid, who was symbolically invited into homes to bless the inhabitants at the beginning of the new cycle. Ceremonial hearth fires were lit, and there were processions of young maidens dressed in white carrying images or symbols of the goddess. In Christian churches the ceremony was called Candlemas, Saint Brigid was honored, and the season celebrated by the lighting of candles. Some of these traditions are still carried on.
In the United States we have groundhog day.
I celebrate this time by rejoicing in the longer late afternoons, sometimes going for a walk at dusk; and in the early mornings, taking time to watch the sunrise and drink in the beauty of bare tree branches against the rose and orange sky. I also look inward to the seeds stirring in the dark earth of my spirit.
How about you? What seeds stir within you for the coming season, what dreams do you hope to manifest as the light grows?