Candlemas is a Christian holiday
celebrated annually on February 2. It celebrates three occasions
according to Christian belief: the presentation of the child Jesus;
Jesus’ first entry into the temple; and it celebrates the Virgin Mary’s
purification (mainly in Catholic churches).
Many Christians consider Jesus as the “light of the world” so it is
fitting that candles are blessed on this day and that a candle-lit
procession precedes the mass. It is traditional to eat crepes on
Candlemas in some parts of Europe, such as France. Each family member
prepares and cooks a crepe while holding a coin in hand. This is
believed to assure wealth and happiness until the next Candlemas
Candlemas is also known as Candelaria in Spanish speaking countries. Whoever finds baby figures hidden inside the Rosca de Reyes (Kings Cake) on Epiphany
on January 6 is obliged to bring food to a gathering held on February
2. Many Orthodox Christians celebrate this event by bringing beeswax
candles to their local church and requesting for these candles to be
blessed to be used in the church or at home. Some Christians observe the
practice of leaving Christmas decorations up until Candlemas.
Many Christians observe Candlemas but it is not a public holiday in
countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United
Candlemas primarily focuses on Jesus’ early life. Many Christians
believe that Jesus’ mother Mary presented him to God at the Temple in
Jerusalem after observing the traditional 40-day period of purification
(of mothers) following his birth. According to a New Testament gospel, a
Jewish man named Simeon held the baby in his arms and said that he
would be a light for the Gentiles (Luke 2:32). It is for this reason
that this event is called Candlemas.
Many people believe that some of Candlemas’ activities stem from pagan observances such as Imbolc, a Gaelic festival, or the Roman feast of Lupercalia.
However, others have argued that there is too little evidence to shed
light on Candlemas’ substitution for these festivals. Either way,
Candlemas occurs at a period between the December solstice and the March equinox, so many people traditionally marked that time of the year as winter’s “halfway point” while waiting for the spring.
According to some sources, Christians began Candlemas in Jerusalem as
early as the fourth century and the lighting of candles began in the
fifth century. Other sources say that Candlemas was observed by blessing
candles since the 11th century. An early writing dating back to around
380 CE mentioned that a feast of the Presentation occurred in a church
in Jerusalem. It was observed on February 14. The feast was observed on
February 2 in regions where Christ's birth was celebrated on December
Candlemas is known as the “Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the
Temple” in many eastern churches. Other traditional names in the
western churches include the “Feast for the Purification of the Blessed
Virgin Mary” as well as the “Meeting of the Lord”. It is also Groundhog
Day in the United States and Canada on February 2. According to folklore, the badger comes out to test the weather in the United Kingdom.
Snowdrops (galanthas nivalis) are known as Candlemas Bells
because they often bloom early in the year, even before Candlemas. Some
varieties bloom all winter (in the northern hemisphere). The
superstitious used to believe that these flowers should not be brought
into the house prior to Candlemas. However, it is also believed in more
recent times that these flowers purify a home.
According to folklore, an angel helped these Candlemas bells to bloom
and pointed them as a sign of hope to Eve, who wept in repentance and
in despair over the cold and death that entered the world. Many Chri