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Age-old St. Brigid’s Day traditions at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life

Feast day of this fifth century saint traditionally signalled the start of spring


(Video: How to make a four-armed St. Brigid's Cross with Tom Doyle, NMI - Country Life)

St. Brigid is Ireland’s only female patron saint and crosses made in her honour are still a familiar sight in many Irish homes.

However, what many people may not know is that the feast day of this 5th century saint was one of the most important days of the year for our rural ancestors.

February 1 marked the beginning of spring and ushered in a new season of hope and growth.

This spring, the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life branch in Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, is encouraging people to visit the National Folklife Collection and learn more about the ways in which our ancestors feted and celebrated St. Brigid each year.

The museum has a range of displays, objects, photography and archive footage on the various customs associated with St. Brigid, from festive meals of potatoes and butter on the eve of February 1 to the straw crosses made to protect family, animals and prospective crops in the year ahead.

The display also features the ‘Biddy Boys’, a band of men who went from home to home with an effigy of St. Brigid, offering her blessings in exchange for money and food to throw a party in her honour’.

The St. Brigid’s Day exhibits and Ireland’s National Folklife Collection can be viewed during museum opening hours from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm and on Sundays, from 2 and 5pm. Admission is free.

If you would like to make a St. Brigid's Cross but aren't sure about the method, the  museum's Education Team has just launched a new video on how to make a four-armed St Brigid's Cross. 

Learn more about Irish spring traditions.