Of course you know that February 2nd was Groundhog Day. But did you know that long before there was Groundhog Day, February 2nd was celebrated because it was halfway through winter?
In ancient Rome this day was called the Festival of Lights, the lighting of candles not only to scare away evil spirits, but to celebrate the increasing strength of the sun as spring approached. Interestingly enough, this midpoint coincides with the Jewish custom that parents present a baby boy in the temple forty days after his birth. This would also be the time for the purification of the mother.
In the Roman Catholic Church, it was the day, not only to remember the purification of Mary, but the day when all the candles to be used in the following year were brought to church to be blessed., thus the mass of the candles. In this day of electricity, we tend to forget how important candles were. But they also symbolized the reference to Jesus as the “Light of the World.” In addition people at that time lit candles to protect from plague, illness, and famine.
For trivia buffs, in the old days, in Scotland, children brought candles to school on that day to light the classroom on dark days. When gas lights replaced candles , the children took money to the teacher to spend on sweets for them. The pupil who took in the most money was pronounced Candlemas King or Queen and “ruled” for six weeks. They could make one afternoon a week a playtime and could “pardon” a classmate who was to be punished.
Whatever the history, whatever the custom, tired of winter, we give thanks that winter is half over and choose to look forward to spring. As my sister-in-love, Pi, says, “Bring on the daffodils.”
© Dorothy C. Judd
Next post: Thursday, February 6th