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CANDLEMAS

Below is a ready-made script.

Feel free to adapt it to suit your school and age group.

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This site was formerly known as
'School Assemblies for Busy Teachers'.





Assembly Title
Candlemas

Submitted by
J. Bloomfield

Age Group
8-14 years

Faith Group
Christian

Resources
Candles, snowdrops, picture of a groundhog

Time of Year
February 2nd

Script
Today is the second of February which is the feast of Candlemas. In pre-Christian times, it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marks the point in the winter half way between the winter solstice, the shortest day, and the spring equinox, as the strength of the life-giving sun increases as winter gives way to spring.

Candles have been made in Europe since 400 AD, from olive oil and beeswax as well as tallow which was made from animal fat and people who made candles were called chandlers. Families lit candles to scare away evil spirits on the dark winter nights.

As it is a hinge between winter and spring, people believed that Candlemas predicted the weather for the rest of the winter.

Candlemas is also called the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple; this was when Jesus and Mary went to the temple for the first time since he was born forty days before.

In many churches it marks the end of Christmastide, when the very last decorations are taken down. In fact if you forget to get rid of your Christmas tree on the fifth of January you are supposed to keep it until today so that Christmas lasts forty nights.

Because it is associated with increasing light, Candlemas is the day when all the candles to be used during the church’s year are blessed. These include the altar candles, the Paschal candle which is lit at Easter time, and the white and purple Advent candles.  The candle in the sanctuary lamp burns for a whole week at a time and signifies that the Holy Sacrament is locked inside the tabernacle behind the altar. We think that the blessing of candles has been going on since the fifth century, and the candles used in church must even today contain a high proportion of real beeswax.

Candles were important in early days not only because there were no electric lights. Some people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and famine. For Christians, they were (and still are) a reminder of something even more important. Before Jesus came to earth, it was as if everyone was 'in the dark'. People often felt lost and lonely, as if they were on their own, with no one to help them. Then came Jesus with his message that he is with his followers always ready to help and comfort them. As if he is a guiding light to them in the darkness. Christians often talk of Jesus as 'the Light of the World' - and candles are lit during church services to remind Christians of this.

Because of this special significance, people light small votive candles in churches when they offer prayers to a saint. In fact in Europe, the insides of some churches are nearly black from many centuries of candle burning.

There are many traditions associated with this time of the year as the days emerge from the winter. 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 the hand. This is believed to assure wealth and happiness until the next Candlemas celebration.

Snowdrops are known as Candlemas Bells because they often bloom early in the year, even before Candlemas. According to folklore, an angel helped these Candlemas Bells to bloom and pointed them as a sign of hope to Eve, who wept in despair over the cold and death that had entered the world. 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. On the Welsh borders, after the Christmas greenery was taken down a bowl of snowdrops might be brought in to give the house "the white purification" although snowdrops in the house at any other time were considered to bring bad luck.

There are many more traditions which relate to Candlemas. There is an old English rhyme:

If Candlemas day be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight;
If Candlemas Day be clouds and rain
Winter be gone and will not come again.

And indeed in America there are towns which rely on a rodent called a groundhog to predict the spring weather. They call Candlemas, ‘Groundhog Day’. If the groundhog can see his shadow - in other words, if it is sunny - they expect six more weeks of winter weather.

But, in the midst of such superstition, let us remember the origin and purpose of today’s name.

Lord, today as we recall the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and the beginnings of a life of love and service to all men and women, we open our hearts and minds to Him and keep a candle burning in our hearts. May we bring our cares and concerns for your world and your people. Amen.

Hymn - 'Shine Jesus Shine'



S. Daly 2000


Last updated 21-7-12.


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