Friday, January 29, 2021

Living The Liturgical Year - Candlemas

It's been about twelve years since I was first introduced to The Liturgical Year, or The Year of Lord, and Candlemas was the first holy day I observed. Also known as The Feast of The Purification, as well as The Feast of the Presentation, it is coming up next Tuesday, February 2, and it's beautiful. At least, it is for me.

The story of Jesus being presented at the temple, the offering of the doves by Joseph and Mary, and wise old Simeon, who's promise from the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before laying his eyes upon the Jesus, his Savior. It's just the sweetest!

It's been 40 days since we celebrated Christmas , and even though Candlemas it is not part of the Christmas season, it is considered a "Christmas feast" as it is the last feast of the Liturgical calendar where Christ is commemorated as an infant child. It was considered by the early church as the absolute last day by which to have your greenery and other Christmas trimmings put away, and following this day, all thoughts give way to Septuagesima and forward to Lent

❊ The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
There are several events that are commemorated on Candlemas, one of them being The Feast of the Purification. Under Mosaic law, a woman was viewed as unclean for 7 + 33 days 40 days) after child birth, and as such, could not go into the temple. From the 25th of December, February 2 marks forty days.

Though I am past my child bearing years, there is a beautiful ritual practiced in some Catholic churches known as the Churching of Women. Jessica, from Shower of Roses has received this blessing following the birth of several of her children. And while I am not Catholic I have borrowed over the years from the faith, incorporating various feasts and celebrations into my own faith and making them my own.

For me personally I love the idea of taking this day to give thanks for and celebrating my womanhood.  For those of us with children who already celebrate Mother's Day, giving thanks for the gift of being a woman could be much more personal and introspective. Some ideas might include;

- "Purifying" yourself by preparing a special bath, complete with candlelight and music.You could spend some time before or after in prayer and offer thanks to God for creating you to be a woman. Maybe add some bath salts, I think the lavender scent sounds lovely.

- Purchase a lovely, feminine, shawl. I ordered this one in sage green just today and it is set arrive on Candlemas. Though I couldn't find the exact one I ordered previously, I have a red one similar to this. You can see it in this post.

- Make Dove Sugar Cookies
The purification ritual obliged Mary to bring a lamb or a dove as a sacrificial offering. Families that could not afford a lamb could present two turtledoves.  As a lovely symbol of this beautiful day, you could make sugar cookies in the shape of a dove. This is my favorite sugar cookie recipe, it's simply, the best! These cookies could also be used to observe and celebrate the Feast of the Presentation.

❊ The Feast of the Presentation of Christ
The Feast of the Presentation of Christ is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I just love the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the temple, their offering of two turtle doves, and of the steadfast faith of Simeon, 

Here are a few ideas for observing The Feast of the Presentation

- The Canticle of Simeon
Prior to eating your meal tonight, read Luke 2:22-40, and then recite together, The Canticle of Simeon. This is a lovely song that you could listen to, as well.

"Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, 

In peace, according to Thy word: 

For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation, 

Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples, 

A light to reveal Thee to the nations." 

Candlemas - The Feast of Light (Return of the Light) or The Feast of Candles
It is that very last line in the canticle, where Simeon refers to Jesus as "the light", that established the tradition of blessing the annual supply of the Church's candles. Beeswax candles were blessed by being sprinkled with water and having incense swung around them, and were then distributed among the members. Today, parishioners bring their own beeswax candles to be blessed. In some churches, the blessing is the followed by a procession in which people carry lighted candles while the choir sings. The procession represents the entry of Jesus as light of the world into the temple. Afterwards, church members take their candles home and place them in their windows as a symbol of light during the darkest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

- Blessing The Candles
If you are not Catholic, you can bless your own candles. You will find an example, here.

- Eat Dinner by Candlelight
Another lovely tradition that we have observed a few times is eating dinner by candlelight. I even know of some families who only use candles as their only light source for the entire day. But in our home we only refraine from using electricity and lighting at dinner time.

- Moonlight Lantern Walk
Another tradition I've personally observed the past few years is a moonlight lantern walk. One of the things I've enjoyed about this tradition is that I spend some time during the day on Candlemas making the lantern. This year I'm considering making an ice lantern and simply freezing a small piece of jute or ribbon to the top so that I can carry it without my hands getting too cold.

Here are some other ideas for lanterns that I think are lovely, as well.

- Twig and Paper Lanterns

There are a number of ideas for other lanterns on Pinterest, so be sure to check there if none of these ideas appeals to you.

❊ The End of Christmastide
In medieval times, Christmastide lasted from the nativity to the purification. Today the season of Christmas ends with The Feast of The Baptism of the Lord (January 10, 2021). But there are some who still continue to observe the season through Candlemas, 40 days after Christmas. You can read this article if you want to learn more.

Our famly has always observed Christmas through The Epiphany, when the wise men came to worship Jesus. These are the actual Twelve Days Of Christmas, and we've always kept our decorations out and continued to observe the season with songs and at times, small gifts. But I actually love the idea of stretching it out a little longer and fulfilling the 40 day cycle which we see so commonly throughout the bible and in scripture. The flood lasted 40 days and nights, Jesus was in the desert for 40 days. 40 days holds significance. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like at this point, but its something I'm going to give some thought to before next year.

This very ancient carol, below, also speaks of the departure of Christmas on this day. It is called "I Am Christmas," and was written by James Ryman, a Franciscan Friar, ca. 1492. The reference to Hallowtide (the days of the dead centering around All Saints Day) here refers to the fact that it was during Hallowtide that monarchs used to announce where they would be spending Christmas.

I Am Christmas

Here have I dwelled with more or lass

From Hallowtide till Candelmas,

And now must I from you hens pass;

Now have good day.

I take my leve of king and knight,

And erl, baron, and lady bright;

To wilderness I must me dight;

Now have good day!

And as the good lord of this hall

I take my leve, and of gestes all;

Me think I here Lent doth call;

Now have good day!

And at every worthy officere,

Marshall, panter, and butlere

I take my leve as for this yere;

Now have good day!

Another yere I trust I shall

Make mery in this hall,

If rest and peace in England fall;

Now have good day!

But oftentimes I have herd say

That he is loth to part away

That often biddeth 'Have good day!";

Now have good day!

Now fare ye well, all in fere,

Now fare ye well for all this yere;

Yet for my sake make ye good cheer;

Now have good day!

❊  Groundhog's Day
Of course most people are more familiar "Groundhog's Day", which also falls on February 2. in America, it is the day when, if the groundhog sees his shadow, there'll be 6 more weeks of winter. There is a similar belief in Europe about how Candlemas weather foretells the length of winter. The English have a saying, "If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year." The Germans also have a few sayings about how the weather at Candlemas bodes ill or well for the nearness of Spring:

When the bear sees

his shadow at Candlemas,

he will crawl back into his

or this one;

If Candlemas is mild and pure,

Winter will be long for sure.

And finally;

If it storms and snows on Candlemas day

Spring will not be far away.

If Candlemas is bright and clear,

Spring is not yet near.,

In our home we've used a variation on these poems;

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright<

Winter will have another fight.

If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain

Winter is gone and will not come again

But I also came across this lovely little poem just this week, which is so much like the poems we've traditionally used during Advent that I wish I'd found it when the girls were young. At any rate, if you followed along with my Advent plans last year, perhaps you'll enjoy it.

Candle, candle burning bright,

Winter's halfway done tonight.

With a glowing, we are knowing,

Spring will come again!.

While Punxsutawny Phil is fun, personally I much prefer the loveliness of Candlemas.

Ideas For Observing Candlemas
If you want to conduct an actual Candlemas Ceremony, you'll find an outline here.

- Let children roll and make their own beeswax candles, or if you want to get really adventurous, perhaps make some by dipping them a few days ahead. Here's a kit for making your own rolled candles, or you and also purchase them ready made. I also love these orange peel candles, so beautiful how so many of the same elements are used in decorations from Advent through to the days before Lent. If you do make your own candles, here's another lovely poem to share with the littles in your life.

“A candle’s but a simple thing, 

it starts with just a bit of string.

But dipped and dipped with patient hand,

it gathers wax upon the strand.

Until complete and snowy white,

it gives at last a lovely light.

Life seems so like that bit of string,

each deed we do a simple thing.

Yet day by day on life’s strand,

we work with patient heart and hand.

It gathers joy,makes dark days bright

and gives at last a lovely light.”

- Light candles and set them in the windows. You can use the electric or battery operated ones that are popular at Christmas for safety. . 

- These spirals are traditionally made for Advent, but would pretty for Candlemas, as well. Perhaps make a ring and place four candles, one for every ten days from Christmas to Candlemas at differnt places on the ring. It would make a lovely centerpiece for your candlelight dinner table. You could also make this Swedish Coffee Tea Ring and place four candles in it, as well. 

Well, I hope that this has given you some ideas for celebrating this lovely day! Candlemas is one of my favorite celebration, and as with so many other aspects of The Year of the Lord, filled with deep meaning and symbolism. I hope you will try out a few of these ideas and savor in the beauty of this lovely day with your family.

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