Here's One More Reason To Be Optimistic About Spring Tomorrow

Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
The second day in February is best known as Groundhog Day, and it's a holiday in which we trust a hole-dwelling rodent to determine when the season will change. But Punxsutawney Phil doesn't get all the credit for the day's forward-looking celebrations. We're also in the midst of Imbolc, the Pagan festival that heralds spring's approach.

Imbolc is celebrated at the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, on or around February 1. Some groups may have observed it today, but others won't hold festivals until tomorrow or later in the week. The holiday dates back to Celtic Pagan traditions in which people would celebrate the "quickening of the year" when the ewes, or female sheep, started to lactate (the word "Imbolc" actually refers to sheep's milk).

Besides getting excited about the end of winter, people would prepare offerings to the Celtic fertility goddess Brigid, burn lamps throughout their homes, and light massive bonfires. Modern-day festivals in Ireland and the UK still incorporate elements of light and warmth with theatrical fire dancing and spinning (do not try this at home). Some also feature a "battle" between the characters of Jack Frost and the Green Man to represent the changing of the seasons. Spoiler alert: The Green Man usually wins.

More private celebrations of Imbloc are surprisingly simple (and familiar). In anticipation of the warmer months and nature's ritual rebirth, many people clean out their houses. Yes, even spring cleaning has roots in Paganism. And for those of you who are too busy planning for Valentine's Day to think about spring, Imbolc is also a popular day to start practicing your love magic.

Whether Phil decides spring is right around the corner or we have to wait six more weeks, celebrating Imbolc is a surefire way to stay optimistic about spring. We still might have to trudge to work in Hunter boots, but we're halfway there!
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