On cross-quarter festivals

For the past few years I’ve picked up The Old Farmer’s Almanac at the feed store in November for the coming year.  It’s a bit of a lark, really.  It normally sits on my nightstand, vying for space with the 6-20 books I am juggling at any one time.  I find it a fun flip-through, a kind of pocket agrarian Wiki, that gives me a tiny something to think about before I turn out the light.  I flipped through it Friday night and realized that, thankfully, Candlemas is on Monday.  Candlemas, Groundhog Day, Imbolc:  all three of these quasi-religious festivals overlay an important earth-based event.  It’s the halfway (cross-quarter) point between winter solstice and spring equinox.


After a long winter like this one, I can see the need for a party, even if it’s only to celebrate the fact that we’ve made it through half the winter.  Now raise a glass with me, will you?

*Interesting thing about Imbolc:  this is the day that The Winter Goddess (Cailleach, an old woman) in Celtic lore would gather her firewood for winter.  If it was sunny, then she’d have enough light to gather more wood, thus meaning the winter would be longer.  Does that sound familiar?


12 responses to “On cross-quarter festivals

  1. What a hoot!! I’ve heard about equinox and solstice festivals, but cross-quarter festivals??? That’s what I like about the human race. Can always depend on us to find an excuse for a good time!

  2. This is the time of year when winter gets to be tiresome for me. I enjoy (crazy person) the cold weather until February, when suddenly spring cannot come soon enough.
    Once I start drawing my garden plans and mail my seed orders I turn into a three-year-old impatiently waiting for gardening days.
    I think my glass will be a mug of hot chocolate with a splash of Baileys in honor of Cailleach.

  3. Michele (neighbor)

    I shared this with Christian and now he understands how the logic of the groundhog works.

  4. Why gather firewood when winter is half over? Anyone out in the cold and damp of February looking for firewood is not likely to become an old woman. Or perhaps this is for next year? In which case I would wait until the weather got a bit nicer….

    In northern Europe the farm tradition is to have your wood gathered by Easter – that would be wood for next winter, giving it plenty of time to season.

  5. I love this! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  6. I love the old Farmer’s almanacs. Here’s some info from the one I’m using in ’09, that tells how to predict rainy weather: “Place twelve onions in a row on Christmas day; name each one after a month and put salt on their tops. Those on which the salt is melted inside of twelve days will be wet months, according to Long Island weather science.” Foretelling the Weather, 1909, Baer’ Farmer’s Almanac
    Too bad I didn’t plant the onions on Xmas. Maybe it’s not too late?

  7. I have no idea what that map means but it looks really cool!

  8. 🙂 Imbolc is one of my favorite ideas, it kind of recognizes a light at the end of the winter tunnel – more of winter is over than what is yet to come. I hadn’t heard about the gathering firewood part of it though. The Old Farmers Almanac is amazing in terms of the info it has….when my mother was a reference librarian, she often used it as a resources for very unconventional questions.

  9. Hey Dennis, I don’t know about you but I’m all for any little excuse. We are a creative bunch!

    So Pamela did you indulge? I had a glass of wine. I’m with you though. We had a bit of a warmup and no snow this weekend so I could actually drive on the roadway and not packed ice, so it really was kind of nice not having to break a half mile before you got to a stop sign. But no, the snow has returned. Harrumph.

    Hiya Michele! Yeah, isn’t it funny? It pays to dig deep to see the method behind the rather strange story.

    EJ, you of the deep questions!! I have no idea, I am just reporting the facts as I find them. But the idea of harvesting one’s wood by Easter makes a load of sense. Can you find a festival behind it?

    CC, I am looking for entertainment where I can find it. That we’re halfway to spring is rather a knock-out idea to my snow-blind self.

    WS, I would think that now would be the perfect time for you to plant onions. But the Long Island weather science: such an authority! I think a lot of the Farmer’s Almanac stuff, whoever the author, is a bit…spurious, kind of like sheep’s entrails kind of forecasting. But if it’s celebrating a kind of earthly event like the small hope that spring might just melt the snow then hey! Sign me up!

    John, we’re at the 1st point!

    MC, I can see the Farmer’s Almanac being quite the reference book. Rather cool idea. I will admit I had to dig a bit deeper elsewhere to find out more about certain things, like Cailleach. But yeah, even I am beginning to tire of this winter. Humbug.

  10. The only festival I know of that time of year is Easter , other pagan festivals have been lost.
    I commented here on this type of festival/tale/tradition because I think it is an example of how twisted traditions can get when taken out of context. No survival minded rural residents (that would be all of us) think that wood gathering in mid-winter is a good idea. Done occasionally, out of necessity- yes, worth passing on as a tradition- no.
    I’ll bet somewhere city dwellers, or people who generally dislike old women made this up or modified it beyond credibility. On purpose or not?

    Then us modern people come along and say “how quaint and rural and traditional” and swallow the tale.

    End my rant.

    Thanks for the interesting blog writing!

  11. actually did gather firewood on imbolc! the terrificly strong windstorms blew down a lot of trees. we cut a lot of firewood for next year, it was as if nature was providing for us. the sunny day and warm temps made it easier on us. then it snowed the next day so we sat by the fire and made soup. i love imbolc and all the turns of the wheel. it brings much needed rhythm back into our lives.

  12. EJ, well, maybe not lost so much as relegated to minor status. Figuring out when Easter falls is kind of a puzzle, and, actually, it’s based on the moon…and it’s based on when Passover is, which is also lunar-based. So. May Day. There’s an interesting one. Actually many Spring festivals are all about planting schedules and hey: I find that fascinating. I tend to plant my peas and potatoes at St. Patrick’s Day, even if I have to bust up frozen soil to do it… But in actuality, hags (because that’s what they were called, those post-menopausal women) used to be revered for their knowledge and good sense. Now, well.

    Riana, what a gift those winds blew for you. And lucky you to have such a nice day to run out and gather! It must feel pretty good to see that big store of wood, like seeing the freezer or the larder full of goodies. But yeah, I am with you: I appreciate these earthy/solar points of passage so much more than I do the dates and months on the calendar! Maybe it’s because our culture doesn’t revere old(er) women.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s