The Festival of Springtime

Ostara is one of the many names for the celebration of the spring equinox. It is said to come from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, who was a goddess of spring and fertility. It is also close to the Christian celebration of Easter, and the Jewish festival of Passover.

It is not surprising that a celebration can be found at this time of year in almost every civilisation, fro ancient Persia and the Mayan civilizations to the more modern religion of Christianity. The turning of the Wheel of the Year is obvious, and the returning of life in the spring is too powerful a symbol not to be recognised.

Here are a few examples of how this exciting time of the year is celebrated around the world.

Marzanna – Poland

This is a celebration which dates back to around the middle of the 16th century. Dolls known as Marzanna are made of straw and decorated in order to symbolize the cold, dreary winter. They are then paraded through the street as crowds make their way to the nearest body of water. The decorated dolls are then thrown into the water in order to drown the wrath of the winter.

Baba Marta – Bulgaria

Baba Marta literally translates to ‘the grandmother of March’, and folklore says that Baba Marta is a cranky old lady who must be treated well and with kindness, or she will bring more cold, bleak winter days to torment the land.

In order to welcome the change of the season, people wear red and white bracelets which symbolise health and fertility. They hand out other red and white symbols to friends and family to wish them peace and happiness for the rest of the year.

Holi – India

The colourful festival of Holi takes place in late February or early March. The festival was originally a Hindu tradition, but it is now seen as more a cultural celebration than a religious one.

Holi ushers in the spring with bonfires and parties the night before the festival itself. The next day, people gather on the streets for a giant colour fight, with people through dyed powder onto each other. It offers a chance to let go of the cares and hardships of winter and to reconnect with other people.

Falles – Spain

The population of Valencia in Spain almost triples in size during the annual Falles festival in March. It is a week-long spectacle of fiery, satirical entertainment which starts with processions in order to honour Saint Joseph and ends with the mass burning of paper-mache figures filled with firecrackers.

It is not uncommon for those attending these celebrations to wear medieval clothing, and the entire week is accompanied by a huge street party.

Celebrating Imbolc

Imbolc is one of the lesser-known festivals in the Celtic pagan calendar. It marks the point in the year where the first signs of spring begin to emerge, and the world turns back from the dark quiet of winter to the warmth and life of spring. It is a time for bringing new ideas and projects into the light, and for moving to actively grow projects which have been building over the winter months.

Spring Cleaning

Imbolc is the perfect time for that cleaning that you have been putting off. Get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home, and scrub all the surfaces down thoroughly. If you can bear the drop in temperature, open all of the windows and let some refreshing clean air flow through your home. Making the cleaning part of the celebrations is one of the easiest ways to encourage the whole family to join in – just remember to donate things that can still be used to appropriate charities instead of simply throwing them away.

Light’s Return

While Yule is a celebration of the rebirth of the sun, Imbolc is when its return first truly begins to be noticeable as it grows in strength. Candles are a practical response to this, as it is frequently too impractical to celebrate with a bonfire, whether due to weather or regulations. Have your feast lit by the warm glow of candles, and prepare for the blessings to come in the year ahead.

Feasting and Food

No true celebration is really complete without a meal to go with it. At Imbolc, it is important to concentrate on foods which honour the hearth and home – breads, grains and root vegetables are all appropriate, as are dairy products. After all, this is the festival designed to celebrate the beginning of lactation in both cows and sheep.

Brigid

Brigid (also spelt Brighid, and Bridget) is one of the daughters of the Dagda, and part of the Tuatha de Dannan. She is the patron of poets, bards, healers and magicians, and is particularly connected with prophecy and divination. She is a fire goddess, and deeply tied to the light of the sun. This means that any form of ritual healing or divination by candlelight is highly appropriate as part of any Imbolc celebration.