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Candlemas
Candlemas Day
Also called Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus
Observed by Christians
Significance Commemoration of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple
Date February 2
Observances Having candles blessed for the year during a Mass or Service of Worship
Related to Christmastide, Epiphanytide

Candlemas is the feast of the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is celebrated on February 2. Candles are blessed on this day.

Symbolism

France, Belgium, and Swiss Romandy

Crêpe opened up
Chandeleur, also known as crêpes day.

Candlemas is celebrated in the churches on February 2. It is also considered as the day of crêpes. Tradition attributes this custom to Pope Gelasius I, who had pancakes distributed to pilgrims arriving in Rome, but as mentioned earlier one can also see it as a vestige of the custom of Vestal Virgins making offerings of cakes at the time of the Lupercalia.

To celebrate Candlemas, all the candles in the house should be lit. Tradition also says manger scenes should not be put away until Candlemas, which is the last feast of the Christmas cycle.

It is also said that the pancakes, with their round shape and golden color reminiscent of the solar disc, refer to the return of Spring after the dark and cold of Winter.

Even today there is a certain symbolism associated with the preparation of the crêpes. A tradition dating back to the late fifth century and linked to a fertility rite is to flip the crepes in the air with the right hand while holding a gold coin (such as a Louis d'or) or some other coin in the left hand, in order to have prosperity throughout the year. One has to ensure that the pancake lands properly back in the pan. It is also said that the first crepe made should be kept in an armoire to ensure a plentiful harvest later in the year. It is sometimes specified that it be placed at the top of the armoire, and the pancake will supposedly not get moldy and will keep misery and deprivation far away.

Luxembourg

Being a descendant of an ancient torchlight procession, the current tradition of Liichtmëssdag is a holiday centered around children. In small groups, they roam the streets in the afternoon or evening of February 2nd, holding a lighted lantern or homemade wand, singing traditional songs at each house or store, especially "Léiwer Härgottsblieschen". In exchange for the music, they hope to receive a reward in the form of sweets or loose change (formerly bacon, peas, or biscuits).

Tapestry Purification Strasbourg
A tapestry from Strasbourg depicting the Purification of the Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

Mexico

In Mexico, it is traditional to celebrate the presentation of the Christ child in the temple on February 2. The dressing and adoration of the child Jesus and family meals with tamales are an important Mexican tradition.

This festival is closely linked to that of the Epiphany, during which 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, who will then dress the niño dios (an image of the Christ child in the form of a doll) on Candlemas with richly decorated clothes, which is then brought to the church to be blessed. Memories of these events are often passed down from generation to generation in families.

Following this is the family meal. Whoever draws the bean on Epiphany must also prepare tamales, which is believed to echo Mexico's pre-Christian past with its offerings of maize. The whole family is invited to this meal (often the same people as for the Rosca at Epiphany), which gives the festival an aspect of family and sharing. These celebrations take place not only in Mexico but also in Mexican communities around the world, for instance in France. It is for this reason that the Mexican tradition also appears in the Inventaire du patrimoine culturel immatériel en France.

Puerto Rico

This festivity officially finalizes the end of Christmas for Catholics. In Puerto Rico the festivities include a procession where the statue of the "Virgen de la Candelaria" is carried on the shoulders. Others follow with lit candles until they reach a church where a Mass is celebrated. In the evening the festivities continue with a giant bonfire and singing.

United States

Groundhog Day is celebrated on Candlemas in the United States. In the 1880s some friends in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania went into the woods on Candlemas Day to look for groundhogs. This outing became a tradition, and a local newspaper editor nicknamed the seekers "the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club." Starting in 1887, the search became an official event centered on a groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil. A ceremony still takes place every year and it was the subject of a 1993 movie.


Candlemas Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.