Brigid of Kildare, courtesy teabagsinfusion.blogspot

As we hunker down in Chicago awaiting what we’ve been warned will be a blizzard bringing anywhere from 1 and 2 feet of snow by tomorrow afternoon, let’s remember it’s the first day of Spring – according to the Celtic Calendar anyway! Lá Fhéile Bríde, St. Brigid’s Day, falls on the 1st of February and is the Christian replacement for the pagan festival of Imbolc, which honored the goddess Brigid, and celebrated the official beginning of the growing and lambing season.

St. Brigid, a contemporary of St. Patrick and often called “Mary of the Gaels” is still a popular saint in Ireland. There was a time when people believed that she walked the earth on her feast day, in the company of her white, red-eared cow, bestowing blessings upon people and livestock. The tradition was for families to welcome her by leaving an oaten cake and some butter on the outside window sill – along with some corn for her cow. People would also tie ribbons, bits of cloth or handkerchiefs on tree limbs or clothes lines, to be blessed by St. Brigid as she passed their way. This blessed remnant of cloth, called “St. Brigid’s Mantle”, was once thought to have special healing powers. I doubt that many people these days follow this particular tradition, except perhaps in the spirit of celebration and acknowledgment of Ireland’s historic past. However, I do believe young school children still practice the tradition of weaving St. Brigid’s Crosses from rushes to bring home for their parents to hang upon the wall in place of the cross they made the year before. Another practice that may still be followed today by some in Ireland, as well as a few Irish-Americans, would be the preparation of certain dishes traditionally eaten on St. Brigid’s Feast Day. These would be the afore-mentioned Oaten Cakes, as well as Boxty and, my choice for the day, Colcannon. Yes, I am going to try my hand at this traditional Irish dish today, as I watch the snow quietly piling up around my Midwestern Illinois home. There would be no point in attempting to create a St. Brigid’s Cross from rushes, because even if I knew what a rush looked like, it would probably be buried beneath several inches of snow in this place so far from St. Brigid’s country or any sign of Spring!

Colcannon (serves 6)

1 1/4 pounds Kale or green Cabbage

2 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/4 pounds peeled and quartered potatoes

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 cup cleaned and chopped leeks, white part only

1 cup milk

Pinch of ground mace

Salt and ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup melted butter

Simmer kale or cabbage in 2 cups water and oil for 10 minutes, then drain, and chop fine. Boil potatoes and water, simmer until tender. Simmer the leeks in milk for ten minutes, until tender. Drain and puree the potatoes. Add leeks and their milk and the cooked kale, stir together. Stir in mace, salt and pepper. Mound on a plate and pour on the melted butter. Garnish with parsley. – Recipe courtesy fisheaters.com, where you will also find recipes for Boxty and Oaten Cakes.

My store-bought St. Brigid's Cross.

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