Candlemas

Liturgy We Live
by Dr. Gil Haas

Candlemas is celebrated February 2, forty days after Christmas. Episcopalians call Candlemas the “Feast of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple”. Candlemas celebrates Mary’s purification as required by Jewish law after childbirth. In the temple, Jesus was recognized by Simeon as the messiah, and the Song of Simeon is often sung today. On this date, fifth century candlelit masses were celebrated in Jerusalem and later in Rome. Since the eleventh century, the belief that Jesus is the “light of the world” made it customary to bless the Church’s and families’ candles on Candlemas. In Mexico, whoever found the baby inside the King’s Cake on Epiphany was obliged to bring tamales to a Candlemas gathering. French families eat crepes on Candlemas to insure prosperity. Snowdrops have winter blooms, but superstition stated that they were unlucky if brought into the house before Candlemas. Christmas decorations should be removed by Candlemas to avoid bad luck. Candlemas marks winter’s halfway point between the December solstice and March equinox. Its location on the calendar led many to predict the remaining winter’s weather based on the weather on Candlemas. This superstition is why Groundhog Day is celebrated today in our country.

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