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February 2, 2011

Celebrating Midwinter

I'm not trying to be rebellious by calling Imbolc Midwinter but for some reason Midwinter is more captivating of a concept for me. The last few days have been mainly reflective as I observe and quietly celebrate the signs of spring. Tulips and hyacinths are sending up their stems and leaves outside my apartment. On trees, I'm seeing buds of leaves, even some flowers. Its the time for singing Popcorn Popping with my children, though I've always seen the blossoms more like cotton candy than popcorn.

I've noticed how the days are getting slightly longer and the sun shines a little more brightly when it makes its appearance. The last two days I've been able to glimpse the mountains of the Olympics and Cascades on the horizon. The clear days have done wonders to aid my optimism and hope for the coming spring.

Midwinter is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The Equinox is viewed as the start of spring but most people of the Northern Hemisphere recognize that the signs of spring come much earlier than the actual equinox. That is why celebrating Midwinter makes so much sense to me.

There is still the anticipation and hope for brighter days and new growth and life but its more real now. Instead of the dark of the Solstice with only the promise of the returning sun to tide us over, at Midwinter, we have seen the evidence of seasons beginning to change. Its really happening and the signs are all around us.

Midwinter is also the time for planning gardens, clearing messes, organizing, starting new. Its even where the idea of spring cleaning comes from!

This Midwinter, I'll be doing a more involved form of spring cleaning. I'm preparing our new house to move into! I've got paint in my fingernails, in my hair and even all over my feet. Today I discovered the perfect place to plant our garden and the brainstorming has begun.

This year we hope to grow in our new perfect garden space that gets full sun most of the day:
Vegetables: Tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale
Fruits: Strawberry and elderberry
Herbs: Echinacea, Basil and Calendula

Of course, the challenge will be to start seeds and prepare the garden plot while packing/unpacking and organizing a new house for 5 people.

Another interesting aspect of Midwinter to note is what gives Imbolc its name: "Ewe's milk." Its is the time of year when ewes (female sheep) are pregnant with their lambs and their milk begins to develop (called colostrum). In humans, colostrum generally begins to be present around the 5th month of pregnancy. I find significance in this in two ways.

First, as a breastfeeding mother, I experience a feeling of solidarity with the ewes as they grow their babies inside. I appreciate the importance of that first milk to babies' development as well as the neccesity of breastmilk as infants grow and develop. In fact, it is near Imbolc each year that I can celebrate my initiation into motherhood and the start of my own career as a lactating mother. My first child was born on January 27 and this year on Imbolc, I celebrate the milestone of lactating continuously for 4 years!

Second, Christ is known as the Lamb of God and in Latter-day Saint tradition as well as supported by scholar's investigations, it is believe that Christ was born between March and April. If one were to look at Imbolc at the time of Mary's pregnancy that her colostrum began to be present in preparation for the birth of Jesus, we could see Midwinter as a time to celebrate the coming of the Savior to the earth. We can celebrate the Christ comes to bring us goodness and light and new life at the time of year when we see light and new life all around us.

Because of all of the busyness in our lives lately, my family and I will not be able to participate in a formal ritual on the day of Midwinter (Feb 2) but we will observe in greetings and in conversation the significance of the day. Indeed, it will be a festive day as we continue our preparations with our new home.

If we are able to take a break from things and stir ourselves for a social engagement, we will attend a local Wiccan's Church for their Imbolc ritual on Saturday. Wish us luck!


  1. I always thought midwinter was the solstice (and midsummer likewise at summer solstice). I admit this was mostly just based on my own deductions, but I'm wondering where you got that midwinter would be at Imbolc? This is very intriguing to me.

  2. I love these thoughts, especially of the significance of breastfeeding at this time. When I consider that I am on my last baby, each moment that I spend nursing him has become more precious. Thank you for a new way to appreciate these moments. I'm a little late to the pagan party, so we don't have anything really set up for today, but I think we'll at least have a candlelit dinner and talk about these things a bit.

  3. I meant to mention, I do love the thoughts about Mary and pregnancy and milk coming in and all that.

  4. I may be mixing traditions but according to the calendar Winter and Summer mark the start on the solstices and spring and falls starts at the equinoxes. In that case, Imbolc and Lammas are the midpoints of the season. It also makes sense to me to call Imbolb midwinter because all around me its like we are inbetween true winter and true spring. Its not quite like either one yet because I see and feel signs of both.


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