Candlemas is on February 2 and celebrates the beginning of the lengthening of the days, and in some traditions is considered the beginning of spring. It is my understanding that this day is also halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. This festival began in pre-Christian times as a Celebration of Lights and of the Celtic goddess Brigit (February 1st). Candlemas takes its name from the blessing of the candles on this day for use in the church throughout the coming year. It is also a celebration within the church of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple to Simeon and the elderly widow Anna. In the Catholic Church, I believe this is also celebrated as the Feast of Purification (of Mary). This is now also a celebration of Saint Brigid and also a time where we look to the hibernating animals to come out and see if it is winter and whether or not we will have an early Spring. This is also a traditional time of preparation of the fields for later planting.
In the book “All Year Round” by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marije Rowling it says, “At the beginning of February, when the infant light of spring is greeted thankfully by the hoary winter earth, it seems fitting that 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.”
For children under the age of 7, the celebration of the festivals is not in the verbal explanation of the day, but the doing. An answer to a very small child’s question of why we do this or that for many festivals is just that we do! As a child approaches seven, there can be more explanation for the reasons behind things, but please do not spoil the magic and mystery of the festival by all the history.
Here are some ways that Waldorf families celebrate Candlemas:
One would be to think of goals and things you would like to see happen in this New Year together, in this time of new beginnings, as the earth becomes Spring again and do something to celebrate that.
Of course, the major activity is usually candle-making in some form – rolling candles, candle dipping, making earth candles outside in the ground and lighting them. Some families have their candles blessed on this day.
Some families celebrate by tilling a garden plot for March planting.
You could have dinner in candlelight.
Marsha Johnson over at email@example.com recommends making and eating fresh bread, vegetable soup or vegetable chowder and baked custards as your Candlemas meal. Recipes can be found in the FILES section of her yahoo group.
We can also offer simply made stories and poems about our friends the bees and work with beeswax and honey in some way during this festival.
In the United States, this is also of course Groundhog Day and many families celebrate by going to a groundhog day event.
Some families tell stories about Brigid or read the picture book about Brigid and her cloak. You can also search for Brigid’s crosses on-line and make those as a craft; they are very distinctive-looking.
Some families have a bonfire on this day.
These are just some suggestions I have read or heard through other families. If you celebrate Candlemas in your family, please do leave a comment and tell everyone how you celebrate this day…Help someone new to this festival get started!