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Feb 2 - Candlemas

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

Today Christians all over the world celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. In the Spanish Speaking world the focus is more like to be on the Purification of Mary, and in the anglosphere, people will get their candles blessed hence Candlemas,


Today Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, or in some places the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These feasts are linked and are more commonly known in the anglosphere as Candlemas. It marks the 40th day of and the conclusion of the Christmas–Epiphany season. Based on the Biblical Account of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, it takes us deep into the Jewish world of the Holy Family. According to Leviticus 12: a woman was to be purified after giving birth to her first-born son by presenting a lamb as a burnt offering, and either a young pigeon or dove as sin offering, 33 days after a boy's circumcision. Today many Christians, particularly, Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox and Roman Catholics bring their candles to their local church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year. This how this feast has become known as Candlemas. These blessed candles serve as a symbol of Christ, who referred to Himself as the Light of the World. In some places all the candles in the house were lit and manger scenes were not be put away until Candlemas, the last feast of the Christmas cycle.

In France today is considered the day of crêpes. Nowadays, in a more secular France, the pancakes, with their round shape and golden colour are often thought as representing the solar disc, referring to the return of Spring after the dark and cold of Winter. However, I think it much more interesting the tradition of crepes on Candlemas, was established and took root due to Pope Gelasius I in the fifth century, He had pancakes distributed to pilgrims arriving in Rome. This link back to the fifth century is fascinating for historians as it was based on the even more ancient custom of Vestal Virgins making offerings of cakes at the time of the Lupercalia, the festival of the wolf. This was an ancient annual festival, rooted in Rome’s origin myths, where founders Romulus and Remus were raised by wolves. Luoercalia was observed in the city of Rome at the beginning of February to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. They were also called the dies Februatus, after the instruments of purification called februa, which gave February its name. Drawing on these ancient rhythms, in some parts of France, there are still hints of a fertility rite. The tradition of flipping the crepes in the air with the right hand while holding a gold coin to ensure prosperity is still observed in some places. It is also said that the first crepe made should be kept in an armoire to ensure a plentiful harvest later in the year. Elsewhere in Europe, in Luxembourg for instance, Candlemas is a holiday centred around children who roam the streets in the afternoon or evening of February 2, holding a lighted lantern or homemade wand, singing traditional songs, in exchange for treats.

The link to the purification of Mary, although historical and scriptural, started to get traction in the Spanish Speaking world in the 15th Century when an icon invoking Mary in the temple, was found on the seashore by two shepherds from the island of Tenerife. First celebrated as a harvest party on Tenerife, when the Spanish conquistador Alonso Fernández colonised the island it was linked with the Feast of Purification on February 2. This had led to particularly fervent celebrations where the statue of the "Virgen de la Candelaria" is carried in processions in the Canary Islands. In Peru with one of the largest festivals of culture, music and dancing celebrated in the city of Puno. has a special place also in the carnival of Rio De Janeiro, in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, in Guatemala. Perhaps the celebrations are most culturally embedded in Mexico, where the dressing and adoration of the child Jesus is followed by a family meal with tamales are an important Mexican tradition. During Epiphany, the tasting of the rosca de reyes (kings cake) will determine who is responsible for organizing Candlemas. Whoever finds the muñeco (bean-shaped Christ child) in the cake is named godfather of the child and will take a leading role in taking the nino to the church to be blessed.

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