Continuing our exploration of what celebration looks like in modern Pagan families, the Children & Families Team write about the traditions they have developed to mark Imbolc with their children aged 3 years and up
Celebrating Imbolc with a 3-year-old is challenging as many of the things I instantly think of doing are a bit beyond them yet, so I’ve been looking around for ideas. Snowdrops are one of the first things I think of associated with Imbolc, so we’re going to make snowdrop faerie peg dolls for some festive small world play.
Rowan is the tree associated with this time according to the Ogham calendar (coll), so we will have a nosey at the rowan trees near us and see if they are showing signs of spring. We might make a rowan peg doll too. Ducks are also associated with this ogham and we have a duck pond near us so the perfect excuse to go visit.
We can see what birds we can spot and other signs of life, reminding us that the world is waking up and spring is on its way. we’ll combine this with making an Imbolc nature tray with bits we find when out, this can then become part of our Imbolc small world play too.
Nettles are also out so we’re going to forage some nettle tops and have fresh nettle tea.
One of ways I always celebrated Imbolc that I can still do, is with pancakes. They are round like the sun and although the longer days are more noticeable now, it can still feel like winter; so a little extra sun magic is a good thing, plus any excuse for pancakes.
Manager, Children & Families Team
Imbolc or Imbolg is one of my favourite festivals. It’s a simple way to teach my kids about the earth gently warming, as we notice snowdrops or crocuses popping boldly above frozen earth, a sure lesson in perseverance and determination. This year, we’ve decided to give gifts which we’ve never done before, simply as a way to bring some festive cheer to the strange times we’re living in. Imbolg is also one of the festivals on the modern wheel of the year that’s retained so much of its Irish roots, which is reassuring considering Irish paganism is a living tradition with practices dating back centuries, such as making a Brigid’s cross or the Bride’s Bed. It’s a good reminder that what we do today could very well be influencing our descendants for generations into the future. I’m hoping to encourage my immediate next generation to be kind, thoughtful, and consider where the traditions we follow come from and why we do them. Ultimately, though, Imbolc is always perfect as long as I see at least one snowdrop!
Secretary, Children & Families Team
Imbolc tends to be a more low-key festival for many pagans, but I find it’s extra important to mark the changes in nature and energy as we plod through the often grey days of January and February. So, in my family, watching for the changes in the natural world is more important than ever as we move towards Imbolc. We have a big camellia bush right outside our back door which always begins to bloom late in January, so that’s a key marker that Imbolc has arrived, and spring will soon be here. We also have snowdrops to look out for in the garden and in the local parks and woods and walks and outside playing this time of year will always include looking for the beginning of fresh green growth.
We also love making candles in our house, another tradition which is associated with Imbolc. My partner has continued his Mum’s tradition of recycling all our almost used up candles to make new ones. Over the years we’ve found moulds in all kinds of shapes and sizes as well as different techniques for making candles. A favourite is the ice candle, which incorporates ice cubes into the wax as it is poured. As the wax solidifies the ice melts, leaving shapes in the candle and some lovely Imbolc symbolism!
London District Liaison, Children & Families Team
Imbolc, similar to Yule/Christmas, is a ‘coming together’ festival that satisfies many areas of my family. My sister’s birthday is this time of year and for my family in Ireland, who are Catholic, they celebration is Candlemas. For me and my children, we celebrate Imbolc, and I have incorporated some of the traditions from when I was younger and being raised Catholic.
Firstly, after the influx of presents from Yule/Christmas, I use this time to work out what toys, books, and other items we will be keeping, which need to be regifted and which are past their usefulness. As my children got older, this particular activity took longer and longer; as their personal possessions grew, the mess we created by ‘tidying’ was significant and it would take most of a day to return their rooms to normality.
To maintain our connection with the Wheel, we would spend time in the hills around us and in our garden taking note of the first flowers braving their way from underground, despite the frosts and chills still around.
As with all festivals, we would try to include a fire, Imbolc is, after all, a fire festival. With inclement weather at this time of year, our indoor fire was changed from a dire 1980’s example to a gas ‘real’ fire, so we at least had the feeling we were in the presence of the real thing. As with most witches/Pagans/etc. I would love an indoor log burner or stove but as yet, it has not materialised; also, I realised when my children were younger that it is much more about the intentions of action than it is paraphernalia.
As mine are older now, and a nice tradition that has developed at the celebration of my sister’s birthday is the discussion we have with my father and sister about what we are going to plant on the allotment. For me, it gives Imbolc a hopeful feeling.
Deputy Manager, Children & Families Team