Candles in Lourdes

Candles in Lourdes (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

There are a variety of celebrations that mark the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I can imagine that winter can be very long in some parts of the world and throwing a celebration of sorts halfway is probably a good idea.

Here we celebrate Groundhog Day which is the day when the designated groundhog will predict the weather for us —kind of makes you wonder how they get these holidays, doesn’t it? Traditionally, about halfway through winter, hibernating animals would poke their heads out to determine what was going on outside — and depending upon what they observed they would head back in for six more weeks of hibernation.

It is also the celebration of Candlemas which is marks the purification of Mary, mother of Jesus and the presentation of Jesus to the temple for the first time. According to custom, after birth Jewish women were not permitted back to temple for a period of 40 days — they were considered unpure. February 2nd marks the end of the 40 day period from Christmas.

It is also a day that candles are lit to symbolize the returning of the strength of the sun, the coming of spring and to banish evil spirits. This became the day that all the candles to be used in the church for the coming year were blessed during mass, hence Candle-mass.

In Ireland, Scotland and Wales this time of the year is the celebration of Imbolc which is the celebration of the time that the ewe’s milk starts flowing recognizing the beginning of lambs’ births– usually associated with spring.

In France it is known as La Chadeleur or Crepe Day. The French celebrate Candlemas by not only lighting candles but also by making crepes. A French tradition is to hold a coin in your writing hand and simultaneously hold the crepe pan with your other hand and try to flip the crepe successfully. If you manage to catch your crepe, it predicts prosperity for your family in the year to come.

There are several Candlemas sayings which revolve around the prediction of the weather….

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

If Candlemas be dry and fair
The half o winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemas be wet and foul
The half o winter’s gane at Yule.

For the farmers:
Just half your wood and half your hay
Should be remaining on Candlemas Day

 

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