Today is the feast of the presentation of Christ in the temple, known as Candlemas. On this day, when we recall the light revealed to all nations, it is an ancient custom of the church to bless the candles for use throughout the liturgical year. At every Mass today we shall bless candles and light them at various parts of the liturgy.
Several superstitions surround the feast of Candlemas. In England people used to look out for snowdrops on this date. If they were found then spring was not far off. But if not bad weather was expected. In North America it was not flowers that people observed but animals. Because candlemas occurs around the time bears and wolves emerge from winter hibernation to inspect the weather, people came to make their own predictions too. If the animals chose to return to their lairs on this day it was interpreted as meaning severe weather would continue for another forty days at least. In the United States and Canada, Candlemas evolved into Groundhog Day.
An ancient Candlemas poem from England goes as follows:
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.
So if the weather is nice today you can expect more weeks of winter weather, if it isn’t nice the weather should get better soon. Hmmm we shall see…the forecast is mixed in any case!
Candlemas also brings an end to Christmas and Epiphanytide. So the eve was the day on which decorations were taken down. It was said that if all traces weren’t removed there would be a death among the congregation before the year was out! Staying with the macabre, another Candlemas tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll representing a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned. Best wear ear-plugs I guess?!