The Irish are only just back to work and school after the holidays, but we’re already looking forward to our next – and our newest – public holiday: St. Brigid’s Day on February 1st. School children will make St. Brigid’s crosses, a symbol seen on some Irish gifts. Some people will keep to tradition and leave out offerings of food as well as a piece of cloth, anything from a rag to scarf. Brigid is believed to bless the cloth as she visits every home in Ireland on the eve of her feast day, and then the cloth would have the power to cure sore throats, headaches and other ailments.
One of the most famous stories about Brigid is of how she gained the land to build her convent in County Kildare. She asked a landowner for a parcel of land and was refused. Instead of going away disappointed, she persisted. She pleaded with the landowner to give her just as much land as her cape would cover. Bemused, the landowner agreed. As Brigid unfurled her cape, it grew and grew to cover a sizeable enough plot of land. The landowner had little choice but to keep to his agreement.
Brigid is Ireland’s second patron saint after Patrick, and she is also the patron saint of newborn babies, midwives, Irish nuns and dairymaids. Like Patrick. Brigid’s name appears in many placenames around Ireland, and many sites here are associated with her.
Places Associated with St. Brigid
Kildare is the first place we think of, but Brigid had links to other areas too. Holy wells named for her dot the countryside, often known only to locals. This saint is linked to sites throughout Ireland, large and small. These are some of the most important ones.
- In Kildare Town, a church named for Brigid and a round tower sit where the saint originally built her convent. Brigid’s sacred fire burned nearby until the Reformation, and in recent times, a sculpture housing a flame was built in the town center to honor Brigid’s strong link to the area.
- Brigid’s most well-known holy well is nearby, and the fields known as The Curragh are believed to be the area she famously covered with her cloak.
- Both the Hill of Uisneach in County Westmeath and Croghan Hill in neighboring County Offaly claim to be the site where Brigid officially became a nun.
- Like many Irish people, Brigid went to England at one time to do some work, only her goal was to bring faith not to earn any earthly reward. She is believed to have visited a site now known as St. Brigid’s Mound in Glastonbury.
Jewelry, clothing and pottery are popular Irish gifts, but we shouldn’t overlook our less tangible gifts, those beliefs so deeply ingrained in culture that they are part of who we are. Brigid reminds of us our determination to march to the beat of our own drum instead of doing what is expected, the value we place on hospitality and sharing and our enduring belief that miracles are possible.