Candelamas

David Cowles

Feb 2, 2022

Today is the feast of Candlemas, aka Groundhog Day.

Candlemas is a Christian holiday commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. In accordance with Leviticus 12, it falls on February 2nd, which is also final day of the Christmas–Epiphany season. In some countries, Christians don’t remove their Christmas decorations until the day after Candlemas.

Today is the feast of Candlemas, aka Groundhog Day.


Candlemas is a Christian holiday commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. In accordance with Leviticus 12, it falls on February 2nd, which is also final day of the Christmas–Epiphany season. In some countries, Christians don’t remove their Christmas decorations until the day after Candlemas.


Many Christians bring their candles to their local church on Candlemas, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year; these blessed candles serve as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the ‘Light of the World’.


Candlemas falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It represents the ‘turning of the tide’, the end of the quarter of darkness (11/1 – 2/1 in the Northern Hemisphere) and the beginning of the return of light.


But long before the advent of Christianity, ancient societies celebrated this same ‘return of light’. In fact, ancient cultures celebrated all 4 days of the year that fall between the two solstices and the two equinoxes (2/2, 5/1, 8/1, 11/1) as well as the solstices and equinoxes themselves. It is tempting to think of the solstices and the equinoxes as anchor points on the calendar, tokens of stability and permanence in the universe; if so, then the interstitial days might represent the ubiquity of change, the process of becoming. But this is mere conjecture.


In any event, later Western culture ‘Christianized’ 3 of the 4 interstitial days: 2/2 as Candlemas, 5/1 as May Day, and 11/1 as All Saints Day. But the pagan celebrations on or near those dates did not disappear (e.g., Halloween and Groundhog Day). For a thorough review of pre- and post-Christian celebrations of May Day, check out www.aletheiatoday/may-day).


Without any religious associations or connotations, our modern Groundhog Day is a secular celebration of Candlemas. It singles out 2/2 as a ‘turning point’. If the Groundhog (or other designated animal such as the badger or the bear in German culture) does not see its shadow (cloudy day), then the promise of Candlemas is fulfilled, and we may look forward to an early spring. But if the groundhog sees his shadow (clear day), we must wait 6 more weeks for the end of winter. In either event, however, daylight time in the Northern Hemisphere lasts longer and longer every day, right through the Spring Equinox and up to the Summer Solstice.

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