WATCH: New music for St Bridget as customs and traditions celebrated 

Since yesterday, people all over the country have been sharing some of the gorgeous prayers, customs and traditions associated with St Bridget whose feast day falls today, 1st February – Lá Fhéíle Bríde. 

She is, with Patrick and Colmcille, one of the three patron saints of Ireland, known by the elevated and honoured title of Muire na nGael.

The Kildare nun is famed for her virtue, her healing, and for establishing an abbey in Kildare for monks and nuns, with the abbess ranking above the abbot. Her friend St. Conleth became, at Brigid’s urging, bishop of her community.

Stories of St Brigid’s miracles and of her prowess at spreading the Christian faith abound, as do prayers to the saint and a plethora of customs and traditions.

Chief amongst these are, of course, St Bridget’s cross and Brat Bríde, or Bridget’s cloth.

Her cross was first made for an Irish chieftain who lay close to death when visited by the saint. She picked up rushes from the ground to make the cross now so familiar to us all. Before his death, the chieftain asked to be baptised.

Brat Bríde,  or Bratóg Bríde, is also an enduring custom.

This year, musician and dancer Caitlín Nic Ghabhann, was commissioned by the Irish Traditional Music Archive, in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs, to compose new works inspired by lore relating to Brigid.

Concertina player and dancer Caitlín Nic Gabhann from Ashbourne, Co. Meath, decided that St Brigid should have a tune and a dance in her honour, just like St Patrick.

“The name Brigid or Bríd is ‘all around us’ in Irish life. Both my grandmothers were Brigid and Biddy and my own name is Caitlín-Bríd. My grandmother came from St Brigid’s Well, at Liscannor in Co. Clare and my first dancing lessons were at Kilbride hall in Co. Meath.

There is a tune and dance called ‘St Patrick’s Day’ that is known all over the world, so for St. Brigid’s Day this year, I thought it was time she got a tune and a dance of her own.

When trying to decide on what type of tune to compose for St.Brigid’s Day, I settled on a slip-jig for a couple of reasons. It’s traditionally a feminine dance and I also felt that the slip-jig suited the feast of St Brigid – the first day of spring.

Legend has it that Brigid asked the King of Leinster for some land in Kildare so that she could build a monastery. When he declined, she didn’t give up. She later returned and asked him if he’d give her the land that her cloak would cover. He laughed and said he would! So four of her sisters took a corner each of the cloak and walked in opposite directions – north, south, east and west. As they walked the cloak spread and grew and stretched across many acres. And this is where she built her monastery, one of the first in Ireland.

The tune I wrote has four parts, representing the St Brigid’s Cross, and also the four corners of her cloak stretching out so far and wide. The dance is a percussive slip-jig, which is unusual, as the slip-jig is usually a light-shoe dance, but I wanted it to represent Brigid’s strength and the ground she broke in her time.  I called the tune and the dance ‘St Brigid’s Day'”

This beautiful traditional hymn to St Bridget from Aoife Ní Fhearraigh is one for the ages.

Bíodh Lá le Bríde álainn agaibh.

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