Every evening this week I have returned home to find a seed catalogue on my doormat. From seeds to plug plants, each one is full of wonderful images promising summer borders full of bright, colourful flowers. This morning I popped into the hairdressers for my monthly trim and the lady next to me announced she was going home to clean out the greenhouse. We all glanced quickly out the window and then at her, as if to say “Have you seen the weather out there!” She reassured us she knew it felt like -5 but the first set of plug plants had arrived this week and she needed to find them a temporary home.
It might seem crazy when you consider the freezing temperatures, snow and ice we have endured this week, that people are already beginning to plan for Spring and Summer. And yet there are signs all around us that Spring is on its way. As I write this blog post, although it is after 4pm, it is still light outside, whereas a few weeks ago the sun had long since retired for the day.
This Sunday, 1st February, marks Midwinter. Candlemas is celebrated this weekend, as is the Celtic festival of Imbolc or ‘first milk’. This festival marks the sun’s growing strength, the beginning of the lambing season and the beginning of new life. Traditionally Imbolc is associated with the goddess Brigid, the colour white and candles. St Brigid is also a patron saint in Ireland. This time of the year is traditionally a time to clear out the old and make way for the new. So get out those feather dusters, it is time for the annual Spring Clean to begin!
This week in our Forest School session we celebrated the Celtic Festival of Imbolc. We started by talking about the changing seasons and any signs of Spring we had seen. Had anyone seen any snowdrops, primroses, buds on trees? Had anyone seen a lamb yet, birds building nests, daffodils poking their heads tentatively about the frozen ground? Siusaidh Ceanadach’s book ‘Let’s Talk About Pagan Festivals’ includes a simple story about Lucy and a lamb, which provides the perfect introduction to Brigid and her love of animals. You could celebrate the festival with children by making white biscuits, by drinking milk or making candles. We decided to make some St Brigid Crosses to hang around our woods.
Traditionally St Brigid Crosses are made from reed and hung inside the house to protect it from fire. We have made the crosses before using Artstraws but, as we were working with young children, this time we made our crosses from pipe cleaners. The crosses were slightly tricky to make and lots of patience was needed but the children were delighted with the results.We set off to the woods with our crosses, keeping our eyes peeled for signs of Spring. The crows have already built a huge nest in a very tall tree near our school car park and there are daffodils and crocus bulbs popping up all over the place. In the woods we felt the sticky Horse Chestnut buds and looked at the nettles which are also growing new leaves. The snowdrops, also known as Candlemas Bells, have flowered already and, here and there, there are bright splashes of yellow and orange from the primroses. We hung our crosses around the woods and set off back to the classroom. Much to our surprise we spotted a daisy, then another and another. Spring it seems is definitely on its way. Keep your eyes peeled for the first lamb in the fields.