11.723 Southlight 87 Imbolc is a Celtic holiday and therefore not native to Wisconsin, but Imbolc in Wisconsin arrives in an interesting way.
A Celtic Fire Holiday
For the Gaelic Celts, Imbolc marks the beginning of the lambing season. The holiday celebrates the spark of new life which comes into being even before spring arrives. It is roughly the halfway point astronomically between the Southern (December) Solstice and the first (March) Equinox of the year. It should be noted that there is no evidence that the Celts actively calculated the cross-quarters. But they were acutely aware of the seasons in the British Isles and northern Europe.
The Celtic fire holidays are a few days to a week earlier than the actual cross quarters. Celebrations of Imbolc tend to fall on February 1 or 2 in the Northern Hemisphere (and around July 31 or August 1 in the Southern Hemisphere) But the astronomical halfway point between the Southern Solstice (0° Capricorn) and the first Equinox (0° Aries) is 15° Aquarius, which tends to fall around February 4 or 5.
While there is no evidence that the Celts made such calculations, such calculations have been made in East Asia. The solar terms in the Chinese calendar divide the year into 24 equal parts. These same solar terms were also used in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Ryukyu. The first solar term, Lichun in Chinese, means “arrival of spring.” This method of calculating the seasons is known as solar timing.
When Imbolc lands in Wisconsin
Imbolc in Wisconsin tends to be the coldest time of the year, though weather patterns will cause this to vary. This year, the bitter cold seems to be right on schedule. Tomorrow morning where I live the temperature is predicted to be -10° F (-23° C) with wind chills projected to be -25° to -30° F (-32° to -34° C). Not exactly spring-like weather.
The reason that the end of January and end of February tend to be the coldest times of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is due to the phenomenon of seasonal lag. Essentially, water and other surfaces of the Earth maintain temperature for a certain period of time after exposure certain levels of the sun.
This is, however, the inherent paradox of the seasons on this planet. The Winter Solstice (around December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere) may be considered in Western cultures to be the start of winter but it also marks the turning point where the days stop growing shorter and begin to grow longer again. While Christians celebrate what they consider to be the return of the son of their god, Pagans celebrate the return of the Sun. And then around Imbolc, at the time of bitterest cold in some areas, we reach the halfway point between the December Solstice and the March Equinox.
I recently discovered the video below as part of an Imbolc playlist I found on YouTube. I don’t know if the song is explicitly a song for Imbolc, but it clearly exudes Imbolc vibes. So, a happy Imbolc to everyone—spring is on its way!