February 1st, Imbolc, or “La Chandeleur” or Groundhog Day
The first festival is Imbolc (the return of light). It celebrates the fecundity of nature and is dedicated to the goddess Brigantia, Brigit, Brigitte or Bridget. Nature begins to come back to life at this time of year, which is characterised by the birth of lambs and of the renewed production of ewe’s milk. It is a festival of the return of light after the dark of winter, and of the purification with water of people, houses, fields, and animals. This extremely important agrarian ritual was undertaken in order to encourage fertility and fecundity. It is the day when crepes, pancakes or grain cakes are made. These are tossed as high as possible into the air in imitation of the sun’s course. Christianisation transformed this festival into a celebration of the Virgin Mary’s purification rites, 40 days after the birth of Christ. It is plain, however, that it is an immutable festival of the sun.