Wednesday, January 9

What is February 2nd to You?

In the House of Mama Stacey we celebrate the wheel of the year as our holy days.  I wouldn't call us Wiccans as we're far too eclectic for that label, but the 8 sabbats celebrated by Wiccans have stuck with us.  I think this is true for many Pagan households.  Out of all these holidays, Imbolc or Candlemas, is the one which I identify the least with. 

Personally, I feel that it's at an odd time of year when I'm already dealing with birthdays, anniversaries, rebounding from the Solstice/Christmas splurg, horrid Pennsylvania weather (I swear it snows until June here!), a rush of school programs starting (fundraising or basketball anyone?), and the inevitable Valentines Day.  In the midst of all of that, there is this mysterious little Sabbat on February 2nd, the shadow of Lammas.

Because it's still too cold and dark to play around with seeds, and because the snow will continue in our area for at least two more months, it's hard to celebrate the day as an end to winter.  Near our home, local groups tend to emphasis this day as a mid-winter marker of sorts... the turning point for darkness, snow, and ugh.  I guess I can understand that viewpoint, but it still makes for a pretty lack-luster holiday.  As I've been working on creating a Sabbat book for Pagan children, I've been doing research into different possible paths for celebration of this holiday and thought I'd share them with you.  If you don't see your view point reflected here, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comment section!


Up Helly Aa!


A member of Jarl Squad at UpHellyAa.org
[img source: D. Donaldson]
There is a celebration from Norse history that remains vivid in places like the Shetland Islands.  The "Up Helly Aa" festival is a viking fire festival whose highlights include a fiery processional, dancing, elaborate costumes, and the burning of a Nordic longboat. 

The day marks the end of the Yule season in areas of Europe and celebrations are held anywhere from the last week of January through to mid-February.

If your family would like to endorse the sabbat Nordic-style, having a torch-lit (or cleverly disguised flashlight) processional could be fun.  If you'd like to ignite a "longboat", try this link from PaperCrane.org for making paper boats which you can then burn in the cauldron outside, or on a small pyre of kindling if you so desire.

Blotkake
[img source: Matstedet blog]
A Viking feast would probably be in order as well.  I will be the first to admit the foreign sounding foods often scare me off.  I would have a hard time heading out to a Scandinavian restaurant without first looking into what I'd be expected to eat.  I've watched way too many documentaries about fermented shark meat, I suppose.  But, to my joy, I've found that Norse foods are actually pretty darn cool.

Blotkake (aka Norse Cream Cake), is a fruit and cream cake that Americans would be happy to find at any summer potluck.  There are a lot of versions of this, from actual cream-filled cakes to towers of moist cake covered in fruit.  Google to your heart's content, or just try this version from Nom! blog

Beet Burger Sliders
[img source: TheSweetLife]
Beets are popular in Norwegian cuisine.  Beetroot stew is everywhere on Norwegian food blogs, but I think children might find something like Beet Burgers more fun.  Also, beet burgers are a vegan option for families that would like to avoid Scandinavian foods like fish or beef.

For a recipe for the Beet Burger Sliders pictured here, hop over to The Sweet Life's blog and check it out. 

Fish and potatoes blend well in Swedish dishes like Sillgratin.  Baked cod is pretty traditional, but whole-fillet fishsticks may thrill your kids more. And the list goes on and on once you get to looking for Norwegian/Scandinavian foods: Swedish meatballs, cardamom & almond cookies, blueberry soup, sauerkraut, stroganoff, etc.

The Modern Viking Family
[img source: Eclectic Chica's blog]
To create child-friendly Viking gear, follow either of these links to PDF instructions for making cardstock helmets and swords (be aware that as these are from UK sources, the measurements are in centimeters): Hands On History viking helmet & Robinson Historical Society helmet and sword.

Or you can choose to go all out, as this family did!  This is from Eclectic Chica's blog and she has tons of pictures outlining the creation of these masterpieces. 











Imbolc/Imbolg


In my area, this is the most common way to honor the sabbat that is February 2nd.   The Imbolc holiday has Irish roots.  The name refers to pregnancy and lactation (sometimes translated as "in the milk" or "in the belly").  The sabbat honors the growing energy that will soon burst into the world by way of newborn farm animals and unfurling flower bulbs.

UK Pagans spinning fire for Imbolc.
[img source: Getty Images/DailyMail]
This is also a fire festival, a time of man-made blazing light and warmth to honor the slowly returning sun which was reborn to the world at Yule.

At festivals it is common to see fire-spinners displaying their talents.  In Ireland, hilltop balefires are lit to honor the day.  American pagans join in the tradition by blessing and lighting candles or hosting large backyard fires on this day.


Rolled beeswax candles.
[img source: Savvy Homemade]
A popular activity on this day is candle making.  In the House of Mama Stacey, we have done this for several years, hand dipping tapers or pouring baby jar candles.  We've added herbs and made molds and shaved crayons for coloring them... but I've never considered this a child-friendly activity.  Teens and well supervised tweens may be alright, but hot wax and young kids don't mix for me. 

Luckily there are alternative methods which are child-friendly, such as rolling tapers from sheets of beeswax or layering wax beads in a glass jar.  Check out this quick tutorial from Savvy Homemade.

Historically, this time of year the reemergence of fresh animal milks, spring potatoes, and newly sprouted greens were a welcome addition to the limited winter diet of stale bread and salted meats.  These foods continue to be traditional for this holiday.

Making cheese with your children is a great experience for them that honors the dairy element of this holiday.  There are super-simple recipes out there for homemade mozzarella or different soft cheeses made from goat's milk... however you will need rennet and patience for even the most basic of cheeses.  A more child-friendly alternative would have to be the making of either butter or ice cream.  Here's some instructions for making butter from PBS Kids, and homemade ice cream from Ziggity Zoom .

Colcannon & sausage from Painless Cooking
This would be a great holiday to offer a celebratory feast of Irish cuisine.  Colcannon is a mash made from potatoes and kale greens.  On occasion it is topped with sausage, like this version found at Painless Cooking.

Scotch Eggs are hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, breaded and fried.  Irish stew is made from lamb, as is Shepard's Pie.  Potato or soda breads are traditionally Irish and would go great with a watercress or leek soup.  And, although the kids may not go for it, alcohol is used in quite a few traditional Irish dishes.  From Beef & Guinness Stew to a decadent dish called a Dublin Lawyer which contains butter soaked lobster served with a heavy Irish whiskey cream sauce.

When it comes to child-friendly, your best bet for an Imbolc-inspired meal is probably something like the Shepard's Pie (a casserole made from ground meat, gravy, and mashed potatoes) or a cheddar and potato soup with a side of spring-green salad.  Sweets are easy to come up with as dairy is king: cheesecake, puddings, ice creams, cookies & milk, etc.

Brigid, The Goddess Oracle
[img source: H Janto]
The Goddess of the day is Brigid, an Irish deity who is a  patron of all sorts of things from well-wishing (literally wishing into a well) to blacksmithing.  She is a goddess of the grain, poetry, healing, motherhood, and women warriors.  In some traditions she is a triple goddess, in others she is simply one with many talents like that of Athena. 

You'll find a lot of pagans honor the day as a day dedicated to womanhood, offering up ceremonies to honor those young ladies for whom menstruation has begun that year or honoring other transitions, such as the birth of a first child and the transition into motherhood.  This is a great time for the matron of any family to ask for help or to do a ritual for fertility whether it be of the womb, the wallet, or the mind. 







Candlemas


This tradition is almost interchangeable with Imbolc for most pagans.  The title is Christian in nature and the patron deity is Saint Brigid, a canonized version of the goddess Brighid.  The day is celebrated largely the same as Imbolc, except that there is an added tradition of burning greens.

Burning of the evergreen.
[img source: E Engstrom]
At the Solstice, many pagans put up an evergreen tree.  Even if they put up an artificial tree, many will still bring in evergreen/pine clippings, hang real wreaths, decorate with mistletoe, etc.  These greens are a reminder of the life force that will soon return on the Solstice and are then kept to keep living, green energies in the home.  At Candlemas and Imbolc, it is traditional to burn these greens as a sign of faith that the sun and green life will soon return. 

These items can be burned in a bonfire, a small cauldron balefire, or in your fireplace.  If burning is not an option where you live, there are other ways to return the greens to the earth such as mulching and composting.

As another branch of fire festivals, traditional foods for this holiday are similar to Imbolc, but also include warmly spiced sweets like cinnamon candies, chai tea, or gingerbread.  Heat also comes in the form of spicy foods like chili, fajitas, etc.  As a matter of fact, in most southern countries like Mexico, the word "jalapeno" only refers to the pepper once it has been pickled.  As the fresh pepper, straight from the plant, it is called cauresmeno, which means Candlemas chili.

[img source: Liscannorman]
An activity common to the celebrations of both Imbolc and Candlemas is the weaving of a Brigid's Cross.  These are traditionally made from grains, but can be made from pipe-cleaners or other similar craft items.  

For instructions on how to make this with your children, check out Earth Witchery's website






Groundhog Day


While you may not consider this a Pagan thing, I feel that using an animal for predicting the future to be mildly pagan-esque.  As a matter of fact, Phil (the name of America's most famous groundhog) is not the first to practice weather divination this time of year.

There are historical references to the date and methods of predicting the weather.  Websites like Groundhog.org outline the deep European history of these practices:



According to an old English song:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

The Germans recited:
For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day,
So far will the snow swirl until the May.
From what I've read, the tradition of weather prediction was blended with the idea of an animal casting a shadow by the Romans who then passed this tradition to the Teutons (early Germans).  While there are other famous groundhogs who soak up the lime light on February 2nd, Pennsylvania seems to be widely regarded as the home for this tradition.  This is probably due to the large population of German decedents present here.

Punxsutawney, the home of Phil, is not far from the House of Mama Stacey.  It's about a two hour drive, yet our little family has yet to visit.   The day is set up like a small town festival with marching bands, parades, magicians, wine tours, and so on.

If you don't live near Phil, (or Gus in Georgia, or Freddie in West Virginia... there are many famous groundhogs across America and Canada), you can still celebrate Groundhog's Day with your children.

Groundhog fingerpuppet.
[img source: SkipToMyLou]
You can make groundhog puppets from lunch sacks like those found at this link.  You can also make the cute felt groundhog pictured here by following this link.   There are also photos of an adorable meatloaf shaped like a groundhog on the same page. 

Traditional foods would simply be winter delights like hot cocoa, smores, and just about any dinner that you find warm and filling.

You can find a recipe for cookies inspired by Punxsutawney Phil at the Groundhog.org website. 

1 comment:

  1. great ideas here loving this blog post . thanks fer sharing

    ReplyDelete