Ireland was well represented at the big party the Bretons threw at Connolly's in Times Square last night. Pictured there to the left is Tony DeMarco, New York City's premier fiddler and one of the great masters of Irish traditional music. He will be a judge at the prestigious Fiddler of Dooney festival in Sligo this coming October. While his regular Sunday night performance at the 11th Street Bar in the East Village, is a cherished weekly listening event for lovers of Irish fiddle.

Last night's performance at the Interceltic Fest Noz was a celebration of the music, dance, and culture of Brittany, Wales, Galicia, Cornwall, Mann, Ireland, Scotland and Wales by scores of artists. These nations share history, languages, and feeling that made the jam-packed event strangely beautiful.

The Bretons of New York have an organization called BZH NY and a reputation for throwing great events. So to usher in Imbolc, they invited friends from across the Celtic lands to celebrate in our various manifestations.

Imbolc is associated in Ireland and Scotland with Bríd the mythological woman whose nineteen nuns tend the eternal fire at Cill Dara. The sacred fire is associated with Uisneach, the omphalos or spiritual bellybutton of Ireland-as-goddess, and it was there that Bríd is said to have taken the veil. Imbolc is one of four seasonal holidays in the Celtic world with Halloween (Samhain), Bealtaine and Lughnasadh.

On Imbolc the goddess in the form of winter--cailleach--gathers kindling for the great fire that will become the Spring. On Mann, she is called Caillagh ny Groamagh, and she is imagined as a great bird who gathers the fire sticks in her beak.

The Celtic seasonal holidays fall in between the solstices and equinoxes, and use ceremony to help people think about coming seasonal change half way between a solstice and equinox, giving the year four "cardinal points" and four "ordinal points." You can read more about the Celtic calendar here.

Money raised by silent auction for art sold last night will be donated to Action Against Hunger and its Relief Efforts in Haiti.