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Six Things You Might Not Know About Candlemas

Every year on February 2nd, there is an often-forgotten holiday called Candlemas.

But what is Candlemas? Where did it originate — and what does it mean?

Let’s delve into it.

Here are SIX things that you might not know about Candlemas.

1. Candlemas has pagan roots.

Like many Christian festivals, including Christmas itself, Candlemas has origins in pagan traditions and celebrations.

It was an ancient pre-Christian holiday celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere to mark the midpoint of winter, exactly halfway between the Winter Solstice (December 21st 2022) and the Spring Equinox (March 20th 2023).

As a result, it represents the halfway point of winter.

Think about life for people in ancient or medieval times. No electric lighting. No gas heating.

Darkness all around for more than half of every day. Candlemas marked the hope that the worst of winter was over. We are now moving onward to lighter and warmer days ahead.

2. Candlemas has had a long association with the weather prediction

A connection has existed between Candlemas and weather prediction since the Middle Ages.

Hence, the Old English Rhyme:

If Candlemas Day is fair and bright, Winter will have another fight. If Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again.

And the Scottish proverb:

If Candlemas be fine and clear, There’ll be two winters in the year.

The festival of Candlemas occurs around the same time of year that bears and wolves emerge from their winter hibernation to check on the weather.

If the animals retreated to their shelters, the people saw this as an omen that severe weather would persist for another forty days.

3. Candlemas is Groundhog Day in America.

This finds particular expression in “Groundhog Day”, — observed on the same day as Candlemas in the United States and Canada.

The legend goes that if the groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day and sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat into the warmth and security, and winter will go on for six more weeks. Spring will arrive early if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness.

Even today, there is a big event with the emergence — or not — of “Punxsutawney Phil” in the town of the same name in Pennsylvania. This tradition was the setting for the wonderful and touching 1993 movie starring Bill Murray.

This rather strange tradition originated in Germany, where the animal in question is the badger. Dutch settlers imported it to the United States in the 1800s.

4. There are numerous Candlemas traditions and customs.

Candlemas absorbed other traditions and superstitions as the festival grew in popularity during the Middle Ages.

People in some regions of Europe eat crepes on Candlemas, and while making them, they hold a penny in their palm to symbolise the celebration. They think doing so will bring them wealth and happiness throughout the year.

In Scotland, it was the day the quarter’s rent was to be paid.

In other parts of Europe, cows were herded from hay meadows on this day so that farmers could plough fields and plant for the next harvest.

Candlemas is called Candelaria in Spanish-speaking countries. One tradition is that whoever found the baby figure inside the Rosca de Reyes (The Kings Cake) on Epiphany must bring food to the Candelaria celebration on February 2nd.

5. Candlemas is linked to Snowdrops.

The snowdrop, in its purest white array First raises her head on Candlemas Day

Snowdrops are sometimes known as “Candlemas Bells” because they bloom early in the year — even before Candlemas arrives.

Legend has it that the snowdrop became a symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden.

The story goes that when Eve had almost given up hope that winter would end, an angel appeared and transformed snowflakes into snowdrops to signify that spring was imminent.

Tudor Croft in Guisborough hosts a “Snowdrop Festival” on a suitable February weekend, close to Candlemas. I’m sure my wife will drag me along again to wander around 200 varieties of snowdrops!

6. There is a Christian link to Candlemas

In the medieval era, the festival of Candlemas was when the priest brought the annual stock of candles into the church to bless them.

Hence, it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles.

Candles were essential in those days, not only because there were no electric lights but also because they were a source of warmth. For a long time, some people believed candles protected against the plague, disease, and starvation.

For Christians, they were — and continue to be — a constant reminder of something far more significant than themselves.

In some churches, the Christmas crib is kept visible until Candlemas, and some people even keep their Christmas trees on display until February 2. The story goes that the late Queen Elizabeth II insisted that the family Christmas Tree was not taken down until Candlemas.

Many people today are completely unaware of this festival — perhaps there are traditions or stories in this post which appeal to you.

What does Candlemas mean — if anything — for you? And did you learn anything interesting in this post?


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