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Slow, seasonal living inspired by the Celtic festival of Imbolc 🌱
Minute by minute, day by day, the light is growing and Winter’s grip is loosening.
1st February marks the Celtic festival of Imbolc: the midpoint between Yule - the Winter Solstice - and Ostara - the Spring Equinox - in the Celtic Wheel of the year. Imbolc marked the first of the Spring festivals in our ancestors’ tradition as Winter began with Samhain at the end of October. And it makes sense - this week I’ve been spotting so many of the first signs of Spring, from the first snowdrops tentatively peeping out of the earth to the the sound of birdsong gradually increasing to the first hints of daylight past 4.30 p.m.
While it doesn’t feel like full-on Spring yet, the light and tentative warmth emanating from the sun speaks to lighter, longer days coming, and a definite movement away from Winter. Since learning more about the Celtic Wheel and its associated traditions, I’ve become much more attuned to these smaller seasonal shifts. Here are some things I’ll be making, doing and celebrating to mark this beautiful time of year.
Lighting the Candles for Imbolc:
Imbolc, the so-called ‘quarter festival’, is a celebration of the returning light, growth, fertility and renewal. It coincides with Christianity’s Candlemas, both celebrations associated with light, particularly the lighting of candles. Fire symbolises purification and protection, welcoming the return of light and hope. In the Celtic tradition, the hearth was usually extinguished and re-lit, with candles in each room and a broom placed by the door to symbolise the cleaning out of the old and celebration of the new. I’m hoping to light our new stove for the first time this week after decorating, and I’ll still be embracing candles in a big way for the coming weeks.
I often find that February can be a harder month than January, with all the impatience for Spring, continuing darkness and cold. I’m starting to feel ideas simmering up, but don’t feel like I have the energy to see them through yet. Though Spring is on the horizon, this is still a time to rest and plan: Imbolc comes from the world “Imbolg”, which means “in the belly” - a time of early pregnancy and new beginnings. It’s the very beginnings of Spring stirring. I try to remind myself of this and instead of caving to self-imposed pressure and rushing things, I’m taking time to let ideas percolate. I’m planning some slow days over half-term to recover from the busy exam season and we’ve booked a few days away at Easter to look forward to as well.
At every opportunity, I’m turning to nature to remind me to slow down and trust in time and its cycle. I find bringing nature home a huge comfort - larch twigs with their tiny pinecones (foraged today and now arranged on the dresser in the hallway), a branch with catkins, the first British tulips and narcissi from the florist, forced Spring bulbs to repot in pretty receptacles. Seek out nature where you can - even if you live in the city like me - and practice mindful noticing. I do this by planning trips to green spaces such as the Botanical Gardens here in Edinburgh. The cheery yellow fronds of witch hazel and very first snowdrops brought me great cheer on a wintery walk earlier today; though the wind was bracing I felt much better for the time spent outside.
Making Time to Create:
I posted about this over on Instagram and it seemed to really resonate - but this year, especially in the cold dark months, I want to make time for my hobbies. I love to draw and paint and rediscovered this in a big way back at the start of the pandemic but last year got busy with writing projects and art took the backseat. This year I’m keen to carve out the time to keep making for the sake of pure enjoyment and creative play. To hold myself accountable, I’ve booked onto an online gouache class with one of my favourite artists, Gemma Koomen, this week. I can’t wait to get my paints out again!
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately testing recipes for an exciting project that I can’t wait to tell you about in the Spring! It’s been intense, but a timely reminder of how therapeutic it is to make something with your hands in this way, and to enjoy eating the results afterwards of course! Marmalade is my favourite thing to make at this time of year - the ritual of shredding the peel and simmering the pot as much fun as the eventual eating. This year I experimented with clementine and blood orange varieties and was really pleased with the results. I urge you to track down some oranges while they’re still in season to make some of your own next weekend - or at least treat yourself to a fancy shop bought version to enjoy on your toast.
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