Candlemas Day (the Christian festival of lights )
2nd February is Candlemas Day.
This ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.
Candlemas is a traditional Christian festival that commemorates the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of her son Jesus. On this day, Christians remember the presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple. Forty days after the birth of a Jewish boy, it was the custom to take him to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to God by his thankful parents.
In pre-Christian times, this day was known as the ‘Feast of Lights’ and celebrated the increase strength of the life-giving sun as winter gave way to spring.
How did the 2nd February come to be called Candlemas?
It was the day of the year when all the candles, that were used in the church during the coming year, were brought into church and a blessing was said over them – so it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles.
Candles were important in those days not only because there was no electric lights. Some people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and famine. For Christians, they were (and still are) a reminder of something even more important. Before Jesus came to earth, it was as if everyone was ‘in the dark’. People often felt lost and lonely. Afraid. As if they were on their own, with no one to help them. Then came Jesus with his message that he is with his followers always ready to help and comfort them. As if he is a guiding light to them in the darkness. Christians often talk of Jesus as ‘the light of the World’ – and candles are lit during church services to remind Christians of this.
Candlemas is a day which holds many different customs.
The Romans had a custom of lighting candles to scare away evil spirits in the winter.
One of the most interesting custom took place in Scotland. In the olden days, Candlemas was the day when children brought candles to school so that the classrooms could have light on dull days. As time went on, gas lighting took over from candle light. The children took money to the teacher who was suppose to spend it on sweets and cakes for the children to eat. The boy or girl taking in the most money were declared Candlemas King and Queen and they ‘ruled’ for six weeks. They had the power to make one whole afternoon a week a playtime and they could also let anyone they wished off punishment.
Other names for Candlemas Day
Candlemas’s Day also has two other names. One is the ‘Presentation of Christ in the Temple’. The other is the ‘Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. Both these names come from special events in the life of baby Jesus.
Candlemas Day Weather-lore, beliefs and sayings
People believe that Candlemas Day predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. The weather proverbs express the idea that a fine bright sunny Candlemas day means that there is more winter to come, whereas a cloudy wet stormy Candlemas day means that the worst of winter is over.
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.
If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o the winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter’s gane at Yule.
‘A farmer should, on Candlemas Day,
Have half his corn and half his hay.’
‘On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang adrop,
You can be sure of a good pea crop.’
” The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day,
and, if he finds snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.”
In America the same story is told about the groundhog or woodchuck.
A candle which drips on one side when carried in church on Candlemas, denotes a death during the year of someone dear.
Snowdrops are considered to be unlucky if brought into the house before Candlemas Day, representing a parting or death.
Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.