There Is a Mid-Winter Festival Hidden in Plain Sight

Groundhog Day, Candlemas, St. Brigid’s Day, and the old Gælic festival of Imbolc are all mid-winter holidays that basically happen on the same day every year. By that day, midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, you know for sure that the days are getting longer. It’s still winter, but you know you’re going to make it. So you do things like bless all the candles you’ll need for the coming year (if you’re a Christian), or study the behavior of giant hibernating ground squirrels to predict the onset of spring (if you’re a Pennsylvanian). You might welcome Brigid (the saint or goddess) into your home (if you’re Irish). It’s a time of purification and light.


The mid-winter festival is a great day to consider how your New Year’s Resolutions are going, and if necessary toss them out to prepare your life for spring. Candlemas is when I officially start planning for Lent. That means starting to think about what I might want to give up, and asking my non-Christian friends if they’re observing Lent this year (many of them do!). It’s also a good day to start fantasizing about your garden (if you haven’t) and to do a little something to get started on your taxes.

Candlemas—now my favorite neglected holiday.

From Happiness Pony #34, January 31, 2014.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

Much like Boris Karloff in the classic Frankenstein movie, I’ve attached electrodes to myself. One is on my left eyebrow, the other high on my right forehead. When I flip the switch, I see a flash of light, and a thousandth of an ampere of current surges through my head. The electrodes burn slightly. Some other practitioners of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation report increased focus, greater creativity, or relief from severe depression. I just feel weird. It reminds me of my first earthquake. An earthquake is not quite like having your body shake, or your chair shake, or your house shake. The world shakes. The world, a fixed frame of reference you’d always taken for granted, becomes unfixed. A milliamp through the brain is nowhere near as earth-shaking, but it’s just as weird. You know that feeling you have when an electric shock isn’t being applied to your brain? That feeling goes away, and with it one more assumption about the way life works.