The cross-quarter pagan holiday of Imbolc happens every year on February 1st in the Northern Hemisphere. As part of the fire festival that honors the Celtic goddess Brigid, there are traditions you can take a part in and different ways to decorate your altar.
There are also many traditional Imbolc foods and inspired recipes you can enjoy for the holiday, from eating blackberries to making pancakes. And, even though the holiday foods are primarily centered around milk and dairy, I have included some vegan recipes for Imbolc as well.
What is Imbolc?
What Are the Traditional Foods of Imbolc?
Milk and foods made with milk are one of the most important foods for Imbolc. The word Imbolc comes from the Irish word i mbolg meaning “in stomach” or “in the belly” and refers to the birthing season of lambs and calves.
In Ireland, February is when the first lambs are born for the year and when the ewes began to produce fresh milk. But milk is not the only food enjoyed during Imbolc.
Some traditional foods of Imbolc include:
- Seeded Cakes
- Mulled Wine
Some of these recipes are more traditional, while others are inspired by the foods enjoyed at Imbolc. Perhaps the most traditional food of Imbolc is milk, especially sheep’s milk, but as milk is included in most of the recipes below, I haven’t created a separate section for it.
If you don’t live in an area where you can get fresh sheep’s milk, store bought is fine. (Just channeling my inner Ina Garten.) While sheep’s milk is harder to come by in the States, you can find sheep’s milk cheeses relatively easily at most grocery stores with a large cheese selection.
Butter is one of the most important foods of the festival. Consider making your own or creating a compound butter by mixing in other foods of the holiday, like blackberries or garlic.
- Cinnamon Honey Butter Board
- Homemade Butter
- Honey Butter
- Garlic Butter Sauce
- Compound Butter
- Roasted Garlic Butter
3. Oats and Barley
These Irish grains are often enjoyed during this time of year.
- Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars
- Barley Breakfast Porridge
- Honey and Almond Butter Overnight Oats
- Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
- Vegan Oatmeal Cookies
- Barley Breakfast Bowl
- Blackberry Overnight Oats
This natural golden sweetener can help remind that brighter days are ahead.
Seeds represent new beginnings and the possibility of what is to come for the year. Bake those intentions into your dishes with recipes like seeded cakes.
These juicy fruits are delicious, but they don’t ripen until later in the year. Consider using blackberry jam if you can’t find locally grown berries.
- Blackberry Grilled Cheese
- Raw Blackberry Cheesecakes (for vegan pagans)
- Blackberry BBQ Sauce
- Blackberry Galette
- Blackberry Buttermilk Muffins
7. Onion and Garlic
I haven’t been able to find a substantial amount of information on why we eat these alliums at Imbolc, but one suggestion I saw linked them with the element of fire, which is appropriate for the holiday.
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Garlic Butter
- How to Roast Garlic
- Oven Roasted Onions
- Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Dip
- Garlic and Dill Aioli Sauce
- Smoked Onions
- Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps
8. Chamomile and Dandelion
These plants are connected with the sun and with the goddess Brigid. They can be set out as offerings or you can make recipes that incorporate them for Imbolc.
- Chamomile Tea
- Honey Chamomile Tea Cake with Lemon Icing
- Chamomile Whiskey Cocktail
- Dandelion Lemonade
- Vegan Dandelion Beet Bars
- Dandelion Vinegar
- Dandelion Jelly
9. Scones and Muffins
Baked breads, especially those that incorporate butter, milk, oats, barley, and seeds are perfect for the holiday.
- Savory Cheese Scones
- Oatmeal Blackberry Muffins
- Blackberry Cinnamon Muffins
- Smoked Gouda and Chive Scones
10. Seeded Cakes
Cake is a common offering and holiday food. It’s sweet, packed with grains, and is often filled or eaten with seasonal fruits or jams. This seed cake is a perfect modern version.
Pancakes were made because they symbolize the shape and color of the golden sun.
These unleavened oatcakes were left out as an offering for Brigid in the hopes she would grant you prosperity and abundance.
This dish was a latecomer to the traditional recipes made for Imbolc. It arrived in the 16th century with the potato. It’s a dish made with potatoes, herbs, butter, wild onion, and cabbages.
14. Mulled Wine
It’s still chilly at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, so if you’re of legal drinking age, consider sipping on some mulled wine during the festival.
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