Candles, snowdrops, picture of a groundhog
second of February which is the feast of Candlemas. In pre-Christian
was the festival of light. This ancient festival marks the point in the
half way between the winter solstice, the shortest day, and the spring
as the strength of the life-giving sun increases as winter gives way to
been made in Europe since 400 AD, from olive oil and beeswax as well as
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
As it is a
hinge between winter and spring, people believed that Candlemas
weather for the rest of the winter.
also called the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple; this
Jesus and Mary went to the temple for the first time since he was born
churches it marks the end of Christmastide, when the very last
taken down. In fact if you forget to get rid of your Christmas tree on
fifth of January you are supposed to keep it until today so that
lasts forty nights.
is associated with increasing light, Candlemas is the day when all the
to be used during the church’s year are blessed. These include the
candles, the Paschal candle which is lit at Easter time, and the white
purple Advent candles. The candle in the
sanctuary lamp burns for a whole week at a time and signifies that the
is locked inside the tabernacle behind the altar. We think that the
candles has been going on since the fifth century, and the candles used
church must even today contain a high proportion of real beeswax.
important in early days not only because there were no electric lights.
people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and
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
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
always ready to help and comfort them. As if he is a guiding light to
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.
this special significance, people light small votive candles in
they offer prayers to a saint. In fact in Europe, the insides of some
are nearly black from many centuries of candle burning.
many traditions associated with this time of the year as the days
the winter. It is traditional to eat crepes on Candlemas in some parts
Europe, such as France. Each family member prepares and cooks a crepe
holding a coin in the hand. This is believed to assure wealth and
the next Candlemas celebration.
Snowdrops are known as
because they often bloom early in the year, even before Candlemas.
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
entered the world. The superstitious used to believe that these flowers
not be brought into the house prior to Candlemas. However, it is
believed in more recent times that these flowers purify a home. On the
borders, after the Christmas greenery was taken down a bowl of
be brought in to give the house "the white purification" although
snowdrops in the house at any other time were considered to bring bad
traditions which relate to Candlemas. There is an old English rhyme:
Candlemas day be
fair and bright
Winter will have
If Candlemas Day be
clouds and rain
Winter be gone and
will not come again.
there are towns which rely on a rodent called a groundhog to predict
weather. They call Candlemas, ‘Groundhog Day’. If the groundhog can see
shadow - in other words, if it is sunny - they expect six more weeks of
the midst of
such superstition, let us remember the origin and purpose of today’s
today as we
recall the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, and the beginnings of a
love and service to all men and women, we open our hearts and minds to
keep a candle burning in our hearts. May we bring our cares and
your world and your people. Amen.
- 'Shine Jesus Shine'