St Brigid’s Day: Ireland’s new public holiday, the 1st named after a woman

Ireland’s government announced it created a new public holiday during St Brigid’s day, the first Irish public holiday named after a woman. It will start on February 1, 2023.

Street in Galway, Ireland
Ireland announced the creation of a new public holiday during Saint Brigid’s Day. It is the first of 10 Irish public holidays named after a woman | © Ruby Doan, Street in Galway, Ireland, 2019

The government of Ireland agreed on January 19 on a new recurring holiday, along with a once-off public holiday for remembering the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new public holiday will be observed in the celebration of Imbolc, also called St. Brigid’s Day, on February 1. This will be the first Irish public holiday named after a woman. St. Brigid of Ireland is the only female of the three Christian patron saints of Ireland.

With the decision, all four of the Celtic seasonal festivals will be public holidays: Bealtaine in May, Lunaghasa in August and Samhain, or Halloween, in October-November.

Imbolc is a traditional Gaelic festival for new life and fertility. Christians also celebrate Saint Brigid on that day. It used to be one of the most important days of the year in Ireland.

St Brigid’s Day to remember and recognize the work of healthcare workers

On February 1, Irish people traditionally organized a festive meal celebrating the time for warmer days, new plantations and the birth of farm animals. They would make four-arm Brigid’s crosses out of rushes.

Saint Brigid is associated with fertility, protection or healing. A blind nun allegedly had her sight restored after Brigid’s prayers. She is also said to have turned water into beer.

Brigid, a Celtic goddess before Christianity appeared in Ireland, is also associated with Saint Brigid as she shares many of her stories and attributes.

This new recurring holiday will be the tenth public holiday in Ireland, which is “more in line with the European average”, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment explained.

In 2022, Irish people will also have a public holiday, celebrated on March 18 in remembrance of the Covid-19 pandemic and in recognition of frontline healthcare workers. But from 2023 on, the public holiday will be held on February 1, a day celebrating a Saint associated with healing powers.

Fórsa, Ireland’s largest public service trade union, welcomed the announcement of an additional and recurring public holiday to recognize workers’ contribution and sacrifice during the pandemic.

St Brigid’s Day will be observed on the first Monday of February except when the 1st of February falls on a Friday, in which case it will be observed on Friday.

Read more about Ireland

Government agrees Covid Recognition Payment and New Public Holiday, January 2022, Free access

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