The feast day Saint Bridget of Kildare, also called St Brigid of Ireland, Patron Saint of Ireland, is February 1st, which is traditionally the beginning of spring in Ireland. Saint Brigid is associated with the making, blessing and giving of Brigid’s crosses. Saint Brigid’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde in Irish marks the start of longer days
The best known Brigid’s tradition is the making and giving of Brigid’s crosses. This tradition is based on a legend about Saint Brigid which tells us that she converted a dying Pagan. To explain the new faith to him, she improvised making a cross from rushes which was all that was available to her in the location. She made it from fresh rushes which are plentiful in Ireland. As she worked she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick man. Her calming words brought peace to his soul. The chieftain’s fever broke, and he grew quiet. Captivated by her lesson of love and enlightenment, the old chieftain was baptized as a christian, just before his death. Crosses can be given to neighbours and friends as presents. They make for a creative Irish gift. Placing a cross above the door is a welcome to visitors. The crosses are also thought to protect the home and its’ inhabitants.
St Brigid was very holy and she wanted to build a church where people could come and pray to God. She found the perfect place in County Kildare and went to the King of Leinster to ask him for land. The king was a very greedy man and didn’t want to give her any land. In the end he said she could have the amount of land that her cloak covered. When she laid her cloak on the ground it grew until she had acres to build her church upon.
When St. Bridget died her body was brought to Downpatrick in Ulster and she was buried beside St. Patrick. As the years went by the memory of holiness remained and she was held in great honour. Many of the stories told about her may have been invented after her death but this shows us that she must have a great person indeed who had made a great impression during her lifetime. You can visit the tomb St. Patrick in Downpatrick, Co. Down.