Did you know that St Bridget – as well as with St Patrick – is a patron saint of Ireland? Did you known that she was the daughter of a chieftain and a slave? Did you know that scholars believe that she is the Irish Christian version of the Celtic goddess Brigantia? Have you ever wondered why generations of Irish children have made a cross of rushes in honour of the saint? Do you know how to make a St Bridget’s cross? Find out the answers to these questions and more here.
St Bridget’s Day or Lá Fhéile Bríde, 1 February, was an important day in the traditional Irish calendar, signalling the beginning of agricultural work.
It was once customary to make a St Bridget’s cross out of rushes or straw on Saint Bridget’s Eve, 31 January. The crosses were hung up in houses, and sometimes in cowsheds and stables, to honour the saint and to gain her protection for the household and their animals.
There were once many types of St Bridget’s crosses. Some were very simple and easily made, while others were more intricate and required great skill and patience.
Most Irish people are familiar with, or perhaps have made, this type of cross. It was once the second most common type of cross in Ireland. From the 1960s onward, however, Telefís Éireann (RTÉ) adopted this type of St Bridget’s Cross as its logo, and gradually – through the influence of television – it became the best-known type. Here Tom Doyle of the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life demonstrates how to make this widely-known type of St Bridget’s Cross using rushes.
The lozenge or diamond shaped cross – similar to the god-eye charms of the Mexican Huichol Indians – was once the most common variety in Ireland, especially in Connacht and Munster and in counties Donegal, Monaghan and Armagh in Ulster. So, for a change and to revive the tradition, why not have a go at making this “Connacht-style” cross? Here Brendan McGowan of Galway City Museum demonstrates how to make this type of cross using lollipop sticks and wool.
Galway City Museum has also developed some information and activity sheets on the theme of St Bridget that may be of interest to schools and families. Have a browse through them below and enjoy!
Beannachtaí na Féile Bríde!