On February the 6th we will celebrate a new Bank Holiday in honour of St. Bridget – the first Bank Holiday in Ireland called after a woman. There are many symbols connected to Bridget’s life, but the one that is most associated with her is the Bridget’s cross. The making of the crosses brings me back to a ritual that I took part in many times as a child. On the eve of Bridget’s feast, we children hurried home from school to gather rushes to make the crosses. The rushes were then piled outside the backdoor until night time.
With the coming of darkness the ritual began. If there was a girl in the household named after Bridget she would lead the ceremony, if not the youngest child was chosen. She would go outside the back door and command us in Irish “Gabhaigí ar bhur ngluine, osclaigí bhur súile and leigigí isteach Bríd”. ( Go on your knees, open your eyes and let Bridget in). We all answered in chorus. “Sé do bhéatha, sé do bhéatha, se do bhéatha”. (Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!). This dialogue was repeated three times and after the third time, the door was opened and Bridget was welcomed in, carrying the rushes. They were laid aside until we all sat for supper. Then when we had eaten we all gathered around the fire and started making the crosses, which were then blessed with holy water and placed in different parts of the house and the outhouses for Bridget’s blessing and protection.
As a child I had no idea what this threshold ritual meant but looking back now I realise that it was a Spring ritual associated with Bridget who was the harbinger of new life. It was a threshold call to reverence the coming of this new life, by kneeling on the ground, opening our eyes to the signs of new life and having a welcoming spirit to all forms of new life, from the sap rising in trees and flowers to leaping lambs in the fields.
May St. Bridget’s presence continue to enwrap us as we honour her on this new Bank Holiday.
Moya OSU, Ballytivnan