Happy festivals! Feast of St. Brigid, Imbolc, Lunar New Year, and Candlemas – beautiful celebrations for February!
Candlemas is one of my favorite festivals. In some traditions this time 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). It is a welcome herald to spring in the Northern Hemisphere; the days are staying lighter longer, some things will start to bloom soon (snowdrops are appearing for some of you!). I can almost feel the stirring and awakening in the land where I live. This can be a true time of awakening your inner will and your inner self – how to bring that inner self to light in the world? How do I grow into the world?
I am working with my word of the year very intensively now about putting that word into ACTION. This is a time of growing and changing. Where do you want to be by St. John’s Tide in June? I encourage you to set some time aside daily to focus on your word of the year, on your goals, and to schedule the time to actually accomplish something that you want to do, even if the steps are small. Small steps are the foundation!
Candlemas 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.
The book 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.
And 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.
So here are a few ways to celebrate Candlemas and mark this season:
- 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. Dipping candles is not difficult. We set up the melted beeswax at one end of a table and a tall container of cool water at the other. Once the child dips their wick in the wax and walks around the table to dip the candle in the cool water, then it is time to dip again. Over a period of time of rounding these two stations a beautiful candle is born! We work to keep the candle straight as we go and also to make the base bigger than the top so they can stand freely without falling over.
- This is also a great day to make your Nature Table look more toward Spring. The first flowers, pussywillows, or catkins; all of those things bring us toward the season of Lent. This is 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. Sometimes I will make a soup with saffron or turmeric yellow colored rolls for dinner.
- 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.
Happy celebrating, friends!