Yesterday was much more than my first day back at work. It was the start of February, which is just packed with festivals. February 1st or 2nd is Candlemas or St Brigid's Day. She was not only one of the patron saints of Ireland, but may have been a Christianised version of a Celtic goddess. It's also Imbolc, one of the four great Celtic festivals of the year. According to Wikipedia, the word comes from one which means "in the belly" and refers to pregnancy of ewes. So it seems to have been a rural festival, celebrating the start of spring and all the good stuff that happens on the farm at that time. Here, of course, it's the middle of summer and HOT!
They used to celebrate it in the Middle Ages. Being a spring festival, they'd look for when the first badgers came out and it's suggested in Wikipedia it may have been a forerunner to the American Groundhog Day. How cool is that!
Then there are the Christian festivals such as Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. This year it's the 21st of February. I'm not a Christian, but I do enjoy celebrating Pancake Day, just for the heck of it and not for the real reason, which was to finish off all the stuff you couldn't have during Lent. Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras (literally fat Tuesday, because you'd be using up all the fat you couldn't eat), Carnival (Farewell to Meat - and I first came across that in a poem by Byron, believe it or not)
Another Shrove Tuesday tradition is a game of footy; if you've read Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals you'd have come across the kind of street football they used to play. There are also - still - pancake races in England.
I love reading all this stuff. Research for a specific piece of writing is all very well, but I get my ideas from just reading and reading anything and everything that looks like fun.
This year I'm not going to have time do do a pancake supper, because I'm likely to be off at the Centre for Youth Literature, celebrating their 21st anniversary.Books first, then pancakes. I just have to hope I can resist buying anything at the stall!
However, if anyone wants to do their own pancake supper or breakfast, they can try this recipe for buttermilk pancakes:
300 ml buttermilk
1 cup of self-raising flour
a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar
Mix them all up and pour some into a frying pan with some oil or melted butter/margarine (I use olive oil, but up to you). This made me two largeish pancakes which I then rolled around fresh summer fruit and yoghurt, while sitting with my nose in a book.
AND, if you want to spoil yourself, you can throw in some blueberries. I got this recipe on the side of a carton of buttermilk. I usually make mine with milk, but buttermilk ones are fluffier.
So, if you have some time off, luxuriate in your pancakes and your pot of tea and read something while you eat.