Salisbury, MD. Not being ones to miss an opportunity for a party, the Gardening Grannies wish to remind you of the Feast Day of St. Brigid. Not heard of her? St. Brigid of Kildare is one of the three most important Irish saints, the other two being St. Patrick and St. Columba. St Brigid's feast day is February 1st (Granny Griffith wishes us to remind you that February 1st is also her birthday), halfway between the winter solstice and the first day of spring. Isn't it nice to know that we've finally made it to winter's "hump day"? St. Brigid is the patron saint of many and diverse groups including healers, farmers (first cousins to gardeners), blacksmiths and beer and ale brewers. Anyone who can be venerated as the patron saint of such a group of our favorites deserves to be celebrated with a feast! Let us begin by sharing just a few facts about her.
First of all, when you go as far back in antiquity as St. Brigid, there is a high amount of contradictory information and debate about her legendary life. We will share that information which we found most persuasive.
St Brigid of Kildare or Brigid of Ireland was born in 451 or 452 or 457. OK. Maybe that wasn't exactly "persuasive", but we couldn't narrow it down. She was an early Irish Christian nun, abbess and founder of several monasteries. According to tradition, Brigid was born near Dundalk (Ireland, not Baltimore!). Her father was reported to be a pagan chieftain and her mother, Brocca, was a slave in his court. About the year 470, after taking the veil, she founded a double monastery at Kildare and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. She also founded an art school and many covenants all over Ireland.
St. Brigid was one of the most remarkable women of her times and, despite the numerous and incredible miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt of her passion and compassion for those in distress. One of the stories associated with her recounts the time she gave away her mother's whole supply of butter to the poor and one of the miracles associated her was that the butter was miraculously restored. St. Brigid is reported to have traveled through Ireland by chariot furthering the conversions of St. Patrick. Some of the miracles attributed to her include enabling the dumb to speak, freeing prisoners, curing lepers and turning water into ale. One time, while she converted and baptized a dying chieftain, she plaited rushes into a cross. It is still customary in some areas to plait St. Brigid crosses on February 1st in the belief that it will protect the household in the year to come. Brigid died at Kildare on February 1, 525, and was buried at Downpatrick with St Patrick and St. Columba. It is the anniversary of her death on February 1st that is celebrated.
And how should we celebrate the Feast of St. Brigid? The Gardening Grannies suggest a bit of soda bread, some oven roasted root vegetables (try them with olive oil, a light sprinkling of your favorite herbs and 2 or 3 tablespoons of maple syrup or molasses) and some lamb chops…along with your favorite ale for the adults. Then, in honor of her being a patron of farmers, sit back and relax and think about the gardening season soon to come.
Gardening Grannies, a group of avid and Master Gardeners, who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org