Imbolc, the Celtic holiday celebrating the first stirrings of spring, is almost upon us. One reason I love Imbolc is that it isn’t widely celebrated, so we can more easily make our own celebrations that are meaningful to us. Also, anything that promises spring is welcome in the middle of a New England winter. I just learned this year that February 1 actually does mark the beginning of the solar spring, the time when the sun shines long enough during the day that the Earth begins to warm and the snow to melt. On February 1, there is no sign of spring in New England, so I always believed that the Celts just had a different climate with an earlier spring than we did. It’s nice to know that the Celts actually were celebrating an astronomically-significant event; they were so smart!
This year I have decided to make snow ice cream for my Imbolc observance. If you have never made snow ice cream, here is how you do it. When the snow starts falling, put a bowl out to gather the fresh snow. You can, theoretically, scoop it off the snowbank, but I don’t trust it to be really clean unless it has just fallen. Mix about 6 cups of snow with 1 cup milk, ½ cup sugar or equivalent sweetener, and a little flavoring of your choice. The snow will quickly become much less than 6 cups. You can freeze it and then it will have the taste and texture of Italian ice.
To me, eating snow is the perfect way to celebrate the first twinklings of spring because snow is like winter’s harvest. It is so beautiful and so abundant, like grains of wheat or rice. Each flake is unique and spectacular, even though very, very few will ever be seen and appreciated. How much Gaia must love to create for us to make snow. What a spring-like gesture of plenty snow is.
Making snow ice cream is a connection to our younger, “spring” selves, at least for those of us who made it as children. I love the idea of doing something at Imbolc that I did as a child, when the world really was new and every day was an adventure. What a deep way to connect to the youthful spirit of spring, that is all potential and growth and enthusiastic optimism!
Yet, for all its springlike reflections, snow ice cream is still made of snow with all its somber and cold qualities. Winter’s peace and sanctuary, to me, comes with the first silent snowfall. When we ingest snow, we are bringing this element into ourselves, acknowledging the essential ending phase of life’s wheel. Yet, we are remaking it into something joyful and pleasurable, nourishing that part of us that is renewing ourselves as we wait for the sun’s warmth and the growth that it will bring.
On Imbolc, may you enjoy a nice, chilly, tasty bowl of snow ice cream and observe all that is happy and hopeful about this moment of the year!
I haven’t had snow ice cream in years! My mom used to make it every year when we were kids and then stopped out of fear of what chemicals an toxins might be in the snow. That and we had quite a few cats and dogs that ran around and it was just too risky. 😉 I would love to make some for my kids this year, but we haven’t had more than a dusting of snow with each snow fall. Maybe next year!
I had actually wondered about the safety aspect, too, but some researchers from an Extension Service found that it’s ok as long as it’s fresh. We’ve had quite a lot of snow this year – about 40 inches so far – I’d be happy to send you some of ours next year!
Haha! I’ll take whatever extra you don’t want.
About 35 inches of my snow (I’ll keep 5 or so inches…) is on its way to you…
I love your perspective on snow as having both the cold qualities of death and yet the quiet stillness and sanctuary requisite prior to rebirths of all kinds. It hasn’t snowed at all this year in Atlanta (I’m not complaining – I had enough snow in southwestern PA to last me a number of years to come!), but I love the idea of incorporating some child-like activities into my Imbolc celebration! Many blessings to you, lady, on this Imbolc and for the rest of the year!
And many blessings to you, too! Thank you! Actually, I can send 35 inches of snow to Foxchild (see comment below), keep 5 inches for myself, and have some leftover to ask Mother Nature to send your way because we are getting MORE snow this week! Nature’s Imbloc gift to us, I guess! Thanks so much for your comment!
No thanks! No snow for me 🙂
OK – then could you send us some sunshine?
I would be happy to send you sunshine! Especially now that Imbolc is passed (in ancient times, if the day dawned sunny on Imbolc, it meant winter would last longer; if it was cloudy and overcast, it meant spring would soon arrive)! One order of sunshine is on its way to New England 🙂
Thanks! And we are due to have first sunshine, then real warmth in the next few days! I always wondered where the Groundhog Day custom came from and now I know! That’s really interesting!