Thursday, 2 February 2017

Hogs and Candles

Today, February 2nd, is Candlemas Day. The 40th day of the Christmas-Epiphany season in the church calendar, it commemorates the ritual purification of Mary after the birth of Jesus, and the presentation of baby Jesus in the Temple. Luke chapter 2 speaks of an old man called Simeon, who held the baby and declared him 'a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of God's people, Israel'. This is believed to be the derivation of the name. Then it became the day on which all the church candles were blessed for the year.
Candlemas falls at the midpoint of winter- halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. 
There are many superstitions and bits of folklore surrounding this day. One very ancient rhyme states that
If Candlemas day be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If on Candlemas day it be shower and rain
Winter is gone and will not come again.
So watch out for the weather, and hope for a shower or two!
Snowdrops are sometimes called 'Candlemas Bells' [or sometimes Mary's Tapers] because they usually bloom around this time of the year. 
Some folk used to believe that these flowers should not be brought into the house prior to Candlemas as it would bring bad luck – others said to bring snowdrops into the house on Candlemas Day itself meant there would be a death in the family [imho that’s a load of tosh!!]  
However, in more recent times, superstitious people say that these flowers purify a home.
According to folklore, an angel helped these Candlemas bells to bloom and pointed them as a sign of hope to Eve, who wept in repentance and in despair over the cold and death that entered the world. Many Christians see the flower as a symbol of Jesus Christ being this hope for the world. Candles that are lit during Candlemas also symbolize Jesus as the “light of the world”.
Another bizarre tradition is that any Christmas Decorations which were not taken down by Twelfth Night should remain in place and only be removed on Candlemas Day.
And if you are reading this and thinking that British folklore is a weird and wonderful thing, and we are all completely bonkers, just remember our cousins across the pond.
In the USA, February 2nd is Groundhog Day. In 1841, a Pennsylvania storekeeper wrote in his diary 
"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas Day,  the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."
nd even to this day, people will go outside and see if the groundhog appears - and how quickly he returns to his home - and that will predict the weather for them. Madness!!
Clearly this is a day for 'weather prognostication'. You may have seen the film of G. Day, with Bill Murray. 
The picture is a groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA - the place to be if you want to know whether or not to pack away your winter woollies.
I shall check the back garden for snowdrops later - but that will probably be the limit of my Candlemas Celebrations. What about you?

Afternoon Update- rain all morning [stopped now] and I found a clump of snowdrops, a single snowdrop - and a golden crocus blooming in the back garden [also two fluorescent footballs have recently arrived in the back of the shrubbery!]


  1. My final nativity set will be packed away today. Most things disappeared for Twelfth Night but the Magi don't arrive in my house until 6th January.

  2. Snowdrops out in my garden. Still waiting for the groundhog.

  3. So glad your snowdrops are out- I know how much you love them, and how you missed them when you lived in France.

  4. Oooh, I didn't know most of that, except for the Ground Hog info!!

  5. Punxsutawney Phil is the name of the groundhog. :) He predicted another 6 weeks of winter, for us!


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