Celebrating Candlemas Day
Learn about the origins of Candlemas day plus ways to celebrate this Pagan holiday which promises of the return of the light and the renewal of life.
BY: Waverly Fitzgerald
Since Candlemas is a time of new beginnings, this is also a good day to celebrate all things new. Plan a ceremony to name a new baby, officially welcome a new person into a family or plight your troth to your beloved. Make a commitment to a goal, like a New Year's resolution. This would be an especially powerful thing to do in a group.
In San Francisco, the Reclaiming Collective sponsors a public ritual called Brigid, which focuses on political commitment. After acknowledging despair over the events of the past year, the participants reflect on the source of their own power and then make a pledge in front of the community about the work they intend to do during the coming year. During this ritual, the flames in a cauldron represent Brigid's Sacred Flame, the fire of inspiration and passion, while a punch bowl filled with waters gathered from all over the world represents Brigid's Holy Well, the source of healing and purification.
If you plan your own ceremony, use these two powerful symbols: fire and water. For instance, wash your hands and bathe your face in salt water, which is especially good for purification. Light a candle as you make your pledge. Incorporate the third symbol of the holiday--seeds--by planting a seed or bulb in a pot to symbolize your commitment, or by blessing a bowl or packet of seeds that you will plant later.
Since the Christian season of Lent can sometimes begin as early as Feb. 4, some Candlemas customs have became associated with Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (the day before Lent's beginning on Ash Wednesday), which is a time of purification.
Have you ever given anything up for Lent? If not, you might consider it. You don't have to be Christian to gain spiritual benefits from the voluntary surrender of something you cherish. You can give up something frivolous or something serious, but it should be something you will notice. Folk wisdom says it takes six weeks (or approximately the 40 days of Lent) to establish a new habit, so you may end up with a lifestyle change.
The kids in our neighborhood have eagerly embraced the idea of giving up something for Lent. We know one little girl who gave up TV for Lent and another who gave up catsup, her favorite food. In the last two years, I've given up alcohol and coffee for Lent. Forty days is enough time to notice the difference in the way you feel without a favorite substance or distraction.
Since Candlemas is often considered the beginning of spring, you can perform another ritual act of purification: spring cleaning. This would be a good time to do a thorough house cleaning, sweeping the floors with salt water, banishing the gloom of winter and creating a sparkling, shiny new setting for spring.
In Ireland, this holy day is called Imbolc and begins at sunset on Feb. 1, continuing through sunset Feb. 2. There are different derivations offered for the name Imbolc: from Ol-melc (ewe's milk) because the ewes are lactating at this time, from Im-bolg (around the belly) in honor of the swelling belly of the earth goddess, and from folcaim (I wash) because of the rites of purification which took place at this time. All of these explanations capture the themes of this festival.