Imbolc, also called the Feast of Brighid, is a ritual and a festival that celebrates the coming of spring. Held at the half-way point of winter, there is no specific date for Imbolc but it is usually celebrated sometime between January 29th and February 3rd. Many practitioners and covens celebrate on February 1, which is halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Solstice, but some Wiccans wait for a sign, such as the sprouting of crocus to tell them when to celebrate Imbolc. The Feast of Brighid has made it into secular culture and is celebrated as Groundhog Day. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain.
This is a festival that heralds the beginning of spring and the Goddess as Maiden. During this time, the Goddess prepares for renewal. It is during this time that seeds and agricultural equipment are blessed in preparation for planting and livestock have had or are soon to have their first offspring. Think of Imbolc as near-spring or last-winter, meaning the dark and the cold are receding, and the earth is stirring from a long sleep. This is the time that the Goddess prepares for the growing season.
One popular way Wiccans celebrate Imbolc as a group is by standing in a dark room, or outside at night if it is dark enough. There is one lit candle in the room and everyone holds an unlit candle. One after the other, each person present with light the candle they are holding from the flame of the lit candle until the group is bathed in light and warmth. Prayers are then offered for a kind and prosperous spring and that the reserves of money and provisions that supported the group through winter will last until the first spring crops. After the ritual, there is a big feast, traditionally put together by determining which provisions will not last until the first crop and which things you have an excess of. These provisions are shared with everyone present during the Imbolc ritual as well as with people in the community.
Imbolc is the time of year that Wiccans scrub their homes from top to bottom and finish up all business left over from winter such as unpaid bills or debts owed. It is important to use this time of preparedness to wrap up old business so that nothing interferes with the rebirth of the Goddess as Maiden and the coming spring. Once you have completed cleaning, place a fresh besom above your front door as a symbol that you have swept out the old business and energy of winter and are welcoming the renewing energy of spring. As you’ve probably guessed, Imbolc has been absorbed into secular culture as Spring Cleaning.