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Candlemas

Candlemas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the early life of Jesus. In particular it celebrates his presentation at the Temple. Candlemas takes place forty days after the celebration of Christ's birth, because religious law said women were purified forty days after giving birth to male children, meaning the Virgin Mary would be purified on February 2, and could enter the Temple on that day. Jesus' presentation is recorded in Luke 2:22-40. In Luke 2:32, a man named Simeon, who was at the temple, calls Jesus "A light for revelation to the Gentiles." This reference to light is why the day is called Candlemas.

Candlemas is one of the oldest feasts in the Christian church, and some sources say it began being celebrated in Jerusalem in the fourth century CE, with the lighting of candles beginning the following century. Another source claims that the blessing of candles started in the eleventh century.

In some Christian denominations, beeswax candles are brought to church and are blessed. They then are used at church or at home throughout the year. Candles are a symbol for Christ, who called himself the "light of the world." In some churches a procession with lit candles comes before mass.

How to Observe

There are a few ways the day could be observed:

  • Bring candles to church to be blessed, participate in a procession of candles before mass, or bring the candles home to be used.
  • Eat crepes. Crepes are eaten on Candlemas in some part of Europe, particularly in France. Crepes are prepared while holding a coin in hand, which assures wealth and happiness until the next Candlemas.
  • Take down your Christmas decorations if you have not yet done so. Some Christians leave up their decorations until Candlemas.
  • Have a celebration with food. In Spanish speaking countries the day is known as Candelaria, and whoever found baby figures inside the King's Cake during Epiphany must bring food to the February 2 celebration.
  • Pick some Snowbell flowers and bring them in your house. Snowbells are known as Candlemas Bells because they bloom early in the year, even before Candlemas. Some varieties bloom all winter. It was once thought that they shouldn't be brought into a house before Candlemas, but now it is more often believed that the flowers purify a home.

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