Monday week, February 6, will see Ireland mark its first St Brigid’s Day bank holiday, and very timely it is too, as we usually have to wait until March 17 for the first one of the year. It’s also the first of our ten bank holidays that celebrate the life of a woman.
The occasion is marked in the documentary Finding Brigid on RTÉ1 on Tuesday January 31, at 10pm, as Cork actor Siobhán McSweeney, of Derry Girls fame, goes in search of the real Brigid.
The programme is being shown the day before St Brigid’s Day, which falls on February 1 and traditionally heralds the first day of spring in Ireland.
The new bank holiday in her honour will take place on the first Monday in February each year, except where it falls on a Friday, in which case that Friday will be a public holiday.
Siobhan gathers a mnásome, in a stone circle in Galway, with Herstory activist Melanie Lynch and Laura Murphy, poet and daughter of a mother and baby home survivor, who candidly reveal their motivation behind the mission to make St Brigid’s day a national holiday. Siobhán also talks to Pat Storey, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare, and feminist scholar Mary Condren (pictured on the cover of TV Week) about Brigid.
The process towards the bank holiday began in 2021, when Minister of State Martin Heydon submitted it as a proposal to Government. He said it would be a welcome boost for the tourism sector in a quiet time for visitors, bridging the length of time between existing public holidays on January 1 and March 17.
In addition, she founded Ireland’s most famous mixed (male and female) monastery in Kildare. At the same time, legends about her echo the myths and legends about the three-faced Celtic fertility goddess Brigid - the goddess of war, poetry, crafts, and healing.
It is worth noting that before the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, the feast of the goddess Brigid was also celebrated on February 1.