Candlemas Day: Christian, Neopagan, or Both
Like many of our holidays, February 2nd is one that is influenced by long-established pagan celebrations. Neopagans and Christians alike both celebrate this day, where candles are lit to banish negative spirits and darkness, and welcome upcoming Spring. The secularized activity of celebrating Groundhog Day, where a groundhog divines whether there will be 6 more weeks of winter is an offshoot of the Pagan celebration, which is called Imbolc, which means “ewe-milk” because this is the time when lambs were born in England, Ireland, and in Eurpoe. In Ireland, the day is referred to as the festival of Saint Bridget, which is an adaptation of the Irish pagan Goddess Brighid.
In the Christian version, this holiday is called Candlemas Day and is also called the Purification of the Virgin, and is held 40 days after Christ’s birth (December 25th). Not to get really into an in depth discussion of the offensive patriarchal tendency to treat women as second class citizens rather than as equals, women had to wait 40 days after childbirth before entering a church or temple due to “uncleanliness”. This is one of the reasons that children were baptized 40 days after their births. This is one of 4 special holidays where there are 40 days observed before a celebration: Halloween (All Saint’s Day), May Day (May 1), and Lent. The first two are 40 days after an Equinox. 40 is a Holy number, and will be discussed in another post.
All over Europe, Christians light seven candles and shaped into a crown worn by the Candlemas Queen. So on Candlemas, Jesus was baptized and recognized as the “Light of the World”. For Neopagans, they light 8 candles to represent the 8 Sabbats.
Candlemas Day Herbs, Flowers, and Traditional Foods
One thing that holidays have in common are herbs, flowers, and traditional foods that are associated with that holiday. The herbs associated with Candlemas Day are angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, celadine, heather, myrrh snowdrop, and yellow flowers. So stopping by the florist and grabbing a bouquet of Yellow Roses would be a perfectly wonderful way to decorate for this holiday. You could even use the above-mentioned oils, like myrrh, and rub it on the candles before you burn them.
Traditionally, foods that represent growth (seeds), and dairy foods, garlic, and honey are eaten or used in food preparation as part of the festivities. As “Ewe” know (Pun intended), Imbolc means “ewe-milk”, so it only makes sense that dairy products would be a sure thing in celebrating this holiday.
Whether you are Christian or Neopagan, or perhaps just interested in different recipes and cultural traditions, the recipes found in The Wicca Cookbook are quite interesting and very tasty. You could try your hand at making the following: Candlemas Pate, Brigid’s Seeded Hummus, Basil-mint Pesto, Walnut-onion Bread, Brigid’s Magical Bread, Puffy Omelet, Frumenty, Crustade of Chicken, Imbolc Moon Cookies, Snowflake Cakes, Valentine’s Chocolate, and Divinely Spiced Wine.
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