On Sunday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. the Belfast Unitarian Church, 34 Miller St., will present the folk duo Castlebay with a concert in celebration of the Celtic holiday of “Imbolc”, also known as “Candlemas” or St. Brigid’s Day. Julia Lane and Fred Gosbee are well-known for their songs and stories interwoven with award-winning playing of Celtic harp, guitar, fiddle and woodwinds.

Did you ever wonder why Feb. 2 is designated as “Groundhog Day” when the groundhog emerges from his burrow? This date is, in fact, an ancient Celtic holiday celebrating emergence from winter called Imbolc. The evidence left by the early inhabitants of the British Isles indicates that they viewed the calendar year as a circle or wheel with fixed points determined by solar and lunar activity.

In addition to the well-known solstices and equinoxes, the ancients marked the halfway points between as “cross quarter” days. Imbolc is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The ancient people of the British Isles and Ireland noted these turning points in the year with appropriate celebrations presided over by various guardians. In the case of Imbolc, the guardian is Brigid, whose realm is the hearth.

She is the patroness of smiths, craftspeople, poets and musicians. Represented as a maiden, she is transformed from the “Cailleach,” or crone, of winter and his herself known as a midwife. The name “Imbolc” is derived from “Oi-melc”, or “ewe’s milk,” as this is the time that sheep lactate. In early Christian times, Brigid was so revered she became an Irish saint with whom many miracles are associated.

The music and lore of the Celtic lands is alive with imagery and symbols associated with these turning points of the year and our
relationship to the natural world. Castlebay’s program presents a vivid picture of these events and their significance today. Come and enjoy an evening of mystical lore and musical merriment as Castlebay celebrates the turning of the winter season towards the spring.

Admission to the concert is $10, $5 for children. For more
information, e-mail castlebay@castlebay.net or phone 529-5438. If the weather looks threatening, call or consult the Web site at castlebay.net/calendar.html.

Over the past 15 years, Castlebay has recorded 14
albums and has toured the Eastern U.S., Ireland, England and Scotland, playing at festivals, folk clubs, and arts centers, as well as on radio and television.