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Candlemas - 2nd of February

Three Early Spring Festivals

Special days at the beginning of February.

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The History of Candlemas - 2nd of FebruaryCandlemas Jesus Purification

The most obvious derivation of the name Candlemas is from the blessing of candles.  In St Luke's Gospel the baby Jesus is presented to the holy man Simeon.  The priest calls Christ 'a light for revelation' thus creating the symbolism with candles.

The Christian significance of 2nd of February is that this date is forty days after Christ's birth at Christmas.  Moreover, under Jewish Mosaic law the ceremony of purification takes place 7 + 33 days = 40 days after a child's birth.  See picture right depicting Jesus being purified.

Incidentally, while 'mass' has a double 's', the name is spelt 'Candlemas', like Christmas and not 'Candlemass', like landmass.

Celebration for Candlemas Around The World

In France, Candlemas is known as La Chandeleur.  Crêpes are served with the evening meal.  One superstition is that if the cook can flip the crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the household is assured of prosperity in the coming year.

The Mexicans refer to Candlemas as Día de La Candelaria.  There the local delicacy is Tamales.  These are made from corn meal dough and filled with meat, cheese, and especially sliced chili.  Tamales are cooked, or rather steamed in pots, and not baked in the oven like Tortillas.

Imbolc, the 1st Cross-quarter Day

February 2 is also significant because it falls nearly midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  Other Cross-quarter days roughly correspond to Beltane or May Day, Lammas (1st of August) and Halloween.  It is most likely that the ancients weren't as precise as modern astronomers in calculating these dates.  Moreover the precise date may have been fine-tuned to climatic conditions prevalent at a particular latitude.

True Cross-quarter DaysCross-quarter Days

Imbolc

The Celts in general and the Irish in particular have a different name for Candlemas - Imbolc.  At this time of year lambs are born and the name Imbolc means in the (Ewe's) belly. 

Other pagan superstitions and rituals focus on using this day to forecast whether spring truly has arrived.  In Europe the chief priest or grand wizard would check whether hibernating mammals such as badgers were emerging from their burrows.  Does this ring a bell?  Could this be a pre-cursor to Groundhog day?

In Scotland this spring festival is also known as Là Fhèill Bríghde, in Ireland it is called Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.  When Christian influences sought to play down the pagan influences, without completely alienating the population they created Saints' days such as St Brigid's Day on the 2nd of February.

 

Footnote:
Please send us your interesting facts about Candlemas or Imbolc.

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See more Saints Days and other special days in spring :

Australia Day   • Up-Helly-Aa   • Groundhog Day   • Shrove Tue   • Candlemas   • Happiness Day

Special Days   • St David's Day   • Charles Dickens   • St George's Day   • Shakespeare's Day

Cherry blossom day   • May Day   • Special day today   • St Patrick's Day   • Lady Day