The Magic of Candlemas

This is a festival that is new to many people, and really can be two separate days and in that regard can be a bit confusing.

February 1st is the day to honor St. Brigid (or Brigit, depending upon what reference you use). ( February 1st also is Imbolc or Imbolg in the Pagan tradition).

February 1st is seen as the first day of Spring.  I know this seems very odd indeed when in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere people are dealing with ice and cold, but within the agricultural realm, this day is the day that marks the days getting a bit longer.  This is a traditional time to prepare for lambing, and usually spring sowing begins.

Brigid was originally viewed as a Celtic goddess, at least according to the Irish tradition as counted in “Celebrating Irish Festivals” and then Brigid became revered as a Saint within the advent of Christianity in Ireland.  There are stories about Brigid as the daughter of  the innkeeper that gave the holy family shelter in the stable, that she helped Mary escape with an infant Jesus by distracting guards who searched on King Herod’s orders…

She is associated with having a cloak of miracles.  In some stories, Brigid requested to have land given to her by the King of Leinster, and when the King said she could have whatever her cloak covered, she laid it down and the cloak covered a large parcel of land!

Here are some ways to celebrate:

  • Make Brigid Crosses as protection from evil, fire,  lightening, disease.  There are many instructions for this one the web. Here is what they look like if you are not familiar:  http://janegmeyer.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/fifth-century-weaving-a-saint-brigids-cross/
  • Leave out a cloak for Brigid to bless as she comes by that will give the wearer protection. 
  • Leave out a bowl of milk, butter, salt, for Brigid to bless as she comes by.  Leave out a bowl of oats or blessed food.  If you leave out seeds, these will be blessed for Spring Sowing.
  • Food may include freshly churned butter and braided bread. (Brigid was known as a cowherd and also a beekeeper).  Making some sort of bread with honey may also be appropriate.
  • Snowdrops and dandelions, white and yellow, might be festive for your table with white or green candles and your Brigid’s crosses. 

 

February 2nd is Candlemas, and this is traditionally the day that celebrates the ritual cleansing of Mary after the birth of Jesus and also when Mary presented the infant Jesus in the temple as according to Jewish tradition.   Simeon called Jesus a light, thus tying Him to this day.   There are some stories that say Mary was uncomfortable about presenting Jesus in the temple and the attention that this would bring, and Saint Brigid walked ahead of Mary with a crown of lighted candles in order to divert attention from Mary and Jesus.  Some sources also say that Brigid wore a crown of candles in order to divert attention from Jesus when Herod’s soldiers were hunting Him.  Therefore, Candlemas is celebrated as a festival of lights and also is seen as a day to celebrate the lights of Saint Brigid and her role in helping Mary and Jesus.

All Year Round” always has such a nice way of putting things.  The authors write here:  “At the beginning of February, when the infant light of spring is greeted thankfully by the hoary winter earth, it seems fitting we should celebrate a candle Festival  to remember that moment when the Light of the World was received into the Temple, when the old yielded to the new.”  Indeed, this day in Eastern churches is “The Meeting” – the festival of the old meeting the new.

Candlemas is the day the Church officially blesses the candles for the year. People used to also put candles around the beehives that they had on this day. 

Of course, Candlemas is also Groundhog’s Day in the United States, and there is much weather lore surrounding that event.  There is also lore surrounding weather and Candlemas in general.  “Festivals, Families and Food” recounts this weather verse:

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will take another flight.

If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain

Winter is gone and will not come again.”

Here are a few ways to celebrate Candlemas:

  • Make candles, of course.  Earth Candles are lovely if  your ground is not frozen – essentially you dig holes, put in a  weighted wick and melted beeswax and help give light to the coming Spring.
  • Making floating candles are nice (there are instructions in “All Year Round”) and dipping candles is a lovely way to spend the afternoon of Candlemas.
  • This is also a great day to make your Nature Table look more toward Spring.  The first flowers, pussywillows or catkins, all those things bring us toward the season of Lent.  Also a great time to make some small flower fairies for your Nature Table and put them out.  There are instructions in “All Year Round” and also in “The Nature Corner”.
  • “Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions” suggests enjoying a candlelit dinner and reading a short story after dinner by candlelight. 
  • Crepes or pancakes are traditional for breakfast.

Many blessings in your celebrations,

Carrie

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12 thoughts on “The Magic of Candlemas

  1. For us in New England, there is a lot of agricultural lore around Candlemas day. It’s the 1/2 way point between the Equinoxes. Now we should “have half our corn and half our hay.” We honor this midpoint in recognition that it’s still a long way until spring–we chop and haul wood to re-stock, we see if we’re 1/2-way through whatever food we canned, and we leave treats in the woods for the animals who have a long way to go until new growth in the woods.

  2. I first celebrated candlemas while living in France…on february 2nd in France, people eat crepes–for dinner! They say if you make a crepe with a coin in your hand you’ll have good luck the rest of the year…crepes are traditional because they are symbols of the sun! In my family here in the US, we’ll be eating a mountain of yummy crepes by candlelight to celebrate!

  3. What great ideas! I had always thought that Candlemas was only about blessing the candles for the year so I never really did anything to celebrate it at home — your ideas are inspiring me to reconsider. We usually dip candles around the holidays, but didn’t this year — might be the perfect thing to do on this misty and rainy weekend.

  4. Thanks for all the lore and suggestions! Great post! I didn’t realize February 1st is considered the first day of spring, I thought it wasn’t until the Vernal Equinox on 21 March. Also, I grew up in North Dakota, where it is definitely NOT spring in February! :) We’ll be rolling beeswax candles and making simple St. Brigid’s crosses this year, but I love the idea of setting out our seeds to be blessed! Thanks again!

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  8. first bees are definitely out and about despite -17C night time temperatures…. I love the idea of putting a candle by one of my hives! and birds are courting, “finding a mate” for the season – the hidden juices are flowing!

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  10. Hi Carrie,
    I wanted to mention that we have always recognized Brigit or Imbolc on February 2. A lovely book filled with stories and activities is “Circle Round – Raising Children in Goddess Traditions”
    I don’t mean at all to take away from the beauty of Candlemas (as we celebrate both! yay for global fusion) Just to say that I had not heard of Feb 1 as St Brigid’s Day.
    Warm regards
    Laura

    • Hi! Love your blog LBergstrome! No, I have heard families with Pagan/Goddess traditions say that in the past…Interesting!
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

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