Today marks the occasion of Candlemas, and also is a day that many celebrate Imbolc (though technically Imbolc occurred yesterday, as did the feast day of St. Brigid).
Photo by ndrwfdgg
I admit, this year I have (once again) fallen down on my observances. The best intentions — to make bread to set out, to have a corn dolly to dress, to make candles — have not been squeezed into my exhaustingly busy schedule.
This year, because I’m exploring Christianity more deeply, and how festivals and feast days there fit with the turning year, I am thinking more about Candlemas.
In the church, Candlemas marks three things: 1) the purification of Mary after childbirth, 2) the presentation of Jesus at the temple as part of the redemption of the first-born, and 3) the prophecy of Holy Simeon.
The end of Christmastide
Photo by Editor B
So what is Candlemas? First off, if it’s the very tail-end of the Christmas season. The absolute, no-seriously we’re done end. If you haven’t taken down your Christmas decorations, this is the absolute last day to do so. It’s also traditional to burn Christmas greenery this day — provided, of course, that your greens are real and not (like mine) the kind that get packed back up in their box, and it’s not a no-burn day where you are.
Photo by slgckgc
It’s also a day for weather lore. In addition to the most-familiar Groundhogs day (Punxutawney Phil has apparently already predicted six more weeks of winter for us this year), there’s other weather lore associated:
If Candlemass day be dry and fair,
The half o’ winter to come and mair
If Candlemass day be wet and foul.
The half o’ winter gane at Yule.
It’s dawning dry and fair where I am, so it looks like we’re in for a bit more winter. Fair enough, we could use the rain.
Feast of Candlemas
Photo by ultrakml
Want to feast on Candlemas? Crepes are a traditional food, which makes a lot of sense. This time of year, spring has not yet come and spring fruits and veggies have yet to appear, but the stores of winter are growing thin. Foods that can be made with things that store well over the winter are key; making a feast out of what is left lurking in the dark corners of the pantry.
Blessing and procession of candles
Candlemas is also a time when the candles for the year would be blessed and processed. Why candles? As best I can tell, it ties back to Simeon’s words of prophecy as Jesus is presented at the Temple:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
This, for me, is where it all ties together. Candlemas is a feast that still comes in a time of darkness. The days are lightening, things are getting better — but we don’t see it yet. The changes are imperceptible, working deep in our hearts and souls.
Photo by Beige Alert
We light candles in the dark to hold it off, and to remind ourselves of the light sure to return. We make feasts of the the scraps we are left with, sweeping around for the stores of winter and pulling together something nourishing and delicious.
Simeon refers to Christ as a light of revelation. It must have been hard to see that in a small baby who had yet to become who he was. But Simeon did. I think it’s hard to see now, too. Look around at a world with so much suffering and conflict, where faith has become a battleground and used to hurt as much as to heal.
But even in the darkness there is change and germination, working it’s way deep inside, preparing to grow. Even when we can’t see the potential yet.