Deputy Group Editor
1:00 AM 2nd February 2024
Candlemas - 40 Days After Christmas
Candlemas is celebrated on the 2 February every year and is 40 days after Christmas.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
In the Christian calendar the day celebrates the customs of the time:
Jesus’ first entry into the temple
Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus into the Jewish temple to give thanks for his birth
The Virgin Mary’s purification (mainly in Catholic churches)
Image by Dorothée QUENNESSON from Pixabay
During a Candlemas service the candles are blessed for use during the year and some are given out to the people to use in their own homes. Many Christians observe Candlemas by putting lighted candles in their windows, but it is not a public holiday in lots of countries.
Candles are often lit during Candlemas to symbolise Jesus as the ‘light of the world’. This is an important day in some Orthodox and Catholic churches even today.
In Spanish speaking countries Candlemas is also known as Candelaria.
Festival of Light
Candlemas had its roots in pagan times when it was the festival of light.
Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay
The ancient festival of light was celebrated because it was half way between the winter solstice (shortest day) and the spring equinox. The life-giving sun of the winter gave way for the spring to arrive.
Superstitions often surrounded the festival of light and some people thought that Candlemas predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. There are some weather rhymes associated with the day where sunny and cold is bad news but windy and wet is good.
Here is a traditional proverb:
Image by Виталий from Pixabay
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again.
A German proverb
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.
This is similar to Groundhog Day in America
Another superstition is that if you didn't take your Christmas decorations down by Twelfth Night (5 January) they should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.
Snowdrops – a sign of hope
Image by 👀 Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay
Snowdrops are often known as Candlemas Bells because they bloom early in the year. They emerge through frozen soil from January and are in bloom until late-February.
It is very easy to see the appeal of snowdrops as they show us that spring is round the corner and appear when other bulbs are still lying dormant in the ground.
There is also a lot of symbolism surrounding snowdrops. If you are superstitious then snowdrops should not be brought into the house on Candlemas Day as they are supposed to symbolise a parting or death. However, it is also believed in more recent times that these flowers purify a home as they can mean purity, innocence and sympathy.
It is the first flower to bloom at the end of winter and the beginning of spring and so symbolises hope. Many Chrisitians believe that snowdrops represent a sign of hope because of Jesus Christ being the hope of the world as well as the light of the world.