I reserve the right to celebrate holidays in my own way, and today is no exception.
Candlemas appears to be another of those holidays that is a mix of traditions. (In my mind, there’s no need for this to be a controversial statement. Blending and adapting traditions is just what humans do. To be clear, this is different from the colonial impulse, which is about force and monocultures.) In the Christian tradition, Candlemas is a remembrance of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple as well as the ritual purification of the Virgin Mary. It is the last feast of the Christmas cycle, so all those lingering Christmas decorations have to come down today! (We still have up Christmas lights on the bushes out front. I like to leave them there well past Christmas because it gives a little life to the neighborhood on these dark evenings.)
It is also a time for blessing candles to be used in the church for the remainder of the year. Hence the name. It’s a festival of light, which hints at its likely pre-Christian origins as an early spring holiday.
Other forms of this holiday are Imbolc and Saint Brigid’s Day. I don’t know enough to go into any details on the likely cross-pollination of these holidays but there are plenty of places to read about it online. My point here is just to talk about how I celebrate the day.
Around here, it’s still very much winter. However, in February I start thinking “spring thoughts.” The days are getting noticeably longer. The maple sap will begin running in the next few days. The pro cycling season starts later this month. (Hey, that’s important to me.) It’s also the time to start germinating seeds indoors in preparation for the gardening season.
So today we will light some candles, make Crepes Suzette—crepes being a nice symbol of the returning sun—and plant a few seeds. Spring is coming!