Not being a particularly Marianist family it wouldn’t normally have occurred to us to mark Candlemas, but this being our English Year, the calendar demands it.

I like that Candlemas is one of those holidays heavy with the patina of time and tradition. Ostensibly it marks the purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus, and his own presentation in the temple. From ideas of consecration and purification came the tradition of  the blessing of candles in church. Then came the lighting of candles in house windows, a tradition which we duly followed tonight.

It also typically marked the time of year when candles were no longer necessary for indoor day labourers as it was light until around five. With this eye on the season and thus also the weather, tradition also dictated that whatever the weather today, the year ahead would be the dominated by the opposite. This is good news as it was bally cold today, although my sons decided there wasn’t much scientific reason to believe such a thing. We did decide, however, that sometimes it’s fun to believe things you know aren’t true, if only for a moment.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

From a series on the English Year. See the wonderful book by Steve Roud.



  1. Don’t know if you saw this one:

    Interesting that he mentions the bear. I’m reading a fascinating book by Michel Pastoureau, The Bear: History of a Fallen King, where there is a whole section discussing the gradual transformation of the holiday from a bear cult to a Christian celebration. Feb. 2 was supposedly the day when bears would end their hibernation and there were many songs, dances, games, and ursine masquerades, including simulations of abductions and rapes in which men would cover themselves in fur to pretend to be bears. Despite the efforts of the Church, these celebrations persisted.


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