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Candlemas — 2 February (fixed date)
February 2, 2017
Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas. In the medieval church, all the candles needed for the whole year were blessed at special Candlemas liturgies. Candles were also given to the poor. Candlemas is also known as:
- The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin. According to ancient Hebrew law, a woman was unclean for six weeks after giving birth, until she
underwent ritual purification (mikvah) and made offerings at the temple (read Leviticus 12:1-8)
- The Presentation of our Lord. Another Hebrew law (Numbers 18:15-16) required that a first-born child, who as the first-born technically should be sacrificed to God, had to be redeemed through the giving of offerings. Mary and Joseph were observant Jews who followed these laws. The gospel of Luke tells us that they came to the temple in Jerusalem for Mary to be purified and for Jesus to be presented and redeemed. While they were there, the prophets Simeon and Anna recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah (Luke 2:22-38). Simeon’s prayer of thanks to God names Jesus as “a light
for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
- St. Brigid’s Day. This ancient celebration marked the mid-point between the shortest day of the year (winter solstice, December 21) and the spring equinox, when day and night would be equal (March 21). It was a day to bless the fields and celebrate the return of the earth’s fertility.
- Groundhog Day, marked every year with the news reports of Punxsutawney Phil emerging from hibernation. Will he see his shadow this year? If yes, then there will be six more weeks of winter. If no, spring is just around the corner. Even before the famous groundhog, people were using the weather on 2 February (Candlemas) to predict whether spring was near. If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, Winter again will show its might. If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, Winter soon will pass away.