Making St Brigid's Crosses in schools is not an “appropriate” tradition to teach children in a multicultural society, Atheist Ireland has said.
For generations, children have been taught the story of Ireland’s patroness saint and woven crosses from rushes to celebrate her life and the coming of spring.
Some might regard this as a harmless tradition but Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland considers it far from benign.
“My issue is that State-funded schools should not be promoting this,” he told The Hard Shoulder.
“Because it has a specific symbolism - the St Brigid's Cross - which is not just religion but religious evangelism.
“The story behind it is that this woman supposedly wove this cross out of rushes in order to convert a pagan chieftain to Christianity on his deathbed.
“That’s exactly the wrong message for State-funded schools to send to a multicultural society that it is appropriate to convert people out of their faith on their deathbed.
“Schools shouldn’t be doing it and individuals and churches should be able to do whatever they want.”
Writer Barbara Scully’s children made St Brigid's Crosses in school and believes that that the tradition is mainly a cultural one in 2023.
“To think they are a conversion tool in this day and age is somewhat overstating an old legend,” she said.
“A lot of St Brigid’s life… is shrouded in stories and myths and legends - it’s very hard to know what’s true and what’s not true.
“But what’s true is that people in this country have been making St Brigid's Crosses out of rushes for thousands of years and they are a symbol of healing and hope for thousands of years and I don’t think they are in any way a symbol of conversion and evangelisation… They have a huge cultural and, dare I say, historic value.”
Monday 5th February has been declared a bank holiday in honour of St Brigid - the first year in modern Irish history in which the patroness saint has been celebrated with a day off.
Main image: Children with crosses. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie