Candlemas is the celebration of the ritual purification of Mary.  Jewish law required this to take place forty days after the birth of her child. 

Candlemas was first celebrated in the late seventh or early eighth centuries.  The intention was to remind people of the Divine light that would take away human sin, and the new light of heaven that would come and transform an old world. 

Members of the congregation held 

processions with blessed lighted candles, hence the name Candlemas.  After the service the candles were taken home to keep away storms, devils and other bad things.  During the Reformation this custom was banned, because the blessing of the candle was regarded as the veneration of magical objects.

However, a custom that grabs the imagination of people does not die out so easily, and as late as the 19th century Candlemas was still celebrated with a lighted candle in a window or at a table.

Carolers would sing special Candlemas carols and answer a number of riddles before they were allowed entrance to a place where they would find a young girl with a baby boy on her lap (personifying the Virgin and Child), surrounded by candles.  The carollers would sing to her and then have a drink.  In many countries,

Candlemas is regarded as the end of the Christmas season, and therefore the day on which the decorations can be taken down and stored.  The ashes of the Yule log would be spread over gardens to ensure a good harvest, and people would choose a new Yule log. In the Northern hemisphere, people like to forecast the weather on Candlemas.  If it is a sunny day, there would probably be forty more days of cold and even snow.

There is also an old rhyme in Scotland that says:

"If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,

there'll be two winters in the year."

Last modified on Monday, 27 January 2014 21:09

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