The pagan festival of Imbolc was traditionally celebrated in February at the start of spring, when a new cycle of life in the countryside began. Imbolc was a time for sharing food with neighbours and friends, and many people also gave butter, breads, cakes and other homemade goods to the poor. Sometimes, an offering would also be left out for St. Brigid. This festival was associated with the goddess Brigid, daughter of Dagda, who was symbolic of butter-making and milk, as well as poetry. St. Brigid’s feast day is now celebrated on 1st February.

According to tradition, St. Brigid dipped her foot in the water and warmed it, heralding the beginning of spring. From then on, the weather would improve and the days would lengthen. The land could also be prepared for sowing, ewes would soon give birth to lambs, and production of milk and butter would increase.

Irish people were particularly aware of appeasing the fairies, and the first milk and butter of the season were left to the fairies as offerings.