Last night while Husband watched the Super Bowl, I was googling Groundhog Day to find out a little more about the origin of Punxsutawney Phil. (Wow, I just read that sentence back to myself. I so want to go back in time and high-five the 2001 Me who tried to feign interest when Tom Brady was in his first Super Bowl. “It’s ok, 2001 Hannah. In 2015, you won’t even have to pretend you’re interested while you cuddle with your hot husband in your adorable house. You win.”) Anyway, in the midst of reading about the February 2nd legend, I learned about the tradition of Candlemas. While it sounds like a made up word or possibly an Amy Sedaris crafting holiday, is a beautiful tradition that has been around for hundreds of years.
The tradition is that on February 2nd, priests bless the candles that light the homes in their community for the remainder of Winter. Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas, and, as with many ancient holidays, there are lots of theories about how February 2nd became a special day. Legends range from the end of a plague in Constantinople to a Christianization of the Gaelic festival of Imbolc. However, the most common thread seems to be the presentation of Jesus at the temple. 40 days also has to do with the Jewish tradition of female purification after childbirth so another name for Candlemas is “Feast of the Purification of the Virgin.”
The candles come into play as a reference to this scripture in Luke’s gospel. Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple and Simeon, after seeing the baby, calls Him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” As the tradition goes, priests bless the candles and then people take them home to light the remainder of the dark winter nights and even to ward off thunderstorms.
Two thoughts for today…
- When I was little my mother always kept candles lit this time of year, and now that I have a home, I do the same thing. There is a homeyness that comes with the glow of a candle. A warmth it adds on the coldest, darkest nights that I can’t quite explain. Oil lamps, pillar candles, tea lights–they’re a cheap fix for some good juju, I promise!
- January is hard and grey and bleak. What sort of light are you bringing to other people these days? There is something to be said for being the hopeful, encouraging friend that makes everyone you meet feel like the most important person in the room. Go forth and be a light in the dreary!
Some Crafty Candle Links from Winters Past:
May the remainder of your Winter days be filled with light!