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Imbolc is one of the eight solar holidays or sabbatss of Neopaganism. Originally it was a pagan Irish festival celebrated on February 1st (and the evening before). Today modern pagans either celebrate in on the 1st or 2nd, the 2nd being more popular in America, perhaps because of a confusion with candlemas. In the southern hemisphere it is celebrated in August. The name, in the Irish language, means "in the belly," referring to the pregnancy of ewes, and is also a Celtic term for spring. Another name is Oimelc, meaning "ewe's milk"; also Brigid, referring to the Celtic goddess of smithcraft, to whom the day is sacred.
The holiday is a festival of light, reflecting the lengthening of the day and the hope of spring. It is traditional to light all the lamps of the house for a few minutes on Imbolc, and rituals often involve a great deal of candles.
A few modern Pagans argue that the Christian feast of Candlemas was a christianisation of the feast of Imbolc. However, the evidence that Imbolc was widely celebrated in pre-Christian times is unknown (all accounts of it refer only to Ireland, whereas the celebration of Candlemas began in the Mediterranean region).
See also Wheel of the Year.