If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, winter will not come again.
The coldest part of winter lies ahead, but each day the light lasts a bit longer. Candlemas falls on February 2, midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox and is a celebration of the return of llght. It is the time to get rid of the old and make way for the new.
Several winters ago when we were going to camp for the weekend it happened we would be there on Candlemas Day, a not obscure, but not commercialized holiday. It has always intrigued me, and this was the perfect time to learn more. We made crepes. Candlemas is also Pancake Day, or la Fete de la Chandeleur. Round foods, including crepes, are a Candlemas tradition, as they are symbolic of the sun, source of our lengthening days. We also made a pot of cock-a-leekie soup on the woodstove and invited all the neighbors. We ate by candlelight, perched on chair arms, and crowded on the couch. All glowed with affection, shared food, good spirits, a bit of wine, and so a tradition was begun. We have celebrated Candlemas every year since.
When Candlemas falls on a weekday, we celebrate here in Otter Creek. We could move it to the nearest weekend and continue to celebrate at camp, but Candlemas is a quarter day, and it just does not seem right to celebrate a quarter day plus two, or minus one.
This is a holiday that has mysteriously escaped Hallmark. It has so many marketable, appealing traditions: candles, food, bonfires, and plenty of superstitions and lore. It is another chance to make resolutions, to make a clean sweep of bad habits, to look forward to the coming spring. We burn our old Christmas tree and any decorative greens, light candles throughout the house, and invite people over to eat round food, and toss their own offerings into the bonfire.
Candlemas is the holiday that in America became Ground Hog Day. Before it was Candlemas, it was Imbolc. Its traditions are rooted in prehistory, and carry a strong sense of ritual and connection with our past. From Pagan to Christian to whatever Ground Hog Day is, there is underlying connection between them all. A German saying goes:
If Candlemas brings wind and snow,
Then spring will very soon show.
But if it’s clear and bright,
Then spring won’t come so right
It is not difficult to see the ground hog and his shadow in that.
But Ground Hog Day doesn’t have candles, pancakes or bonfires. Ground Hog Day, Imbolc or Candlemas? Another tough decision. Do I want the speeding ticket, or the car detailing? Here in Otter Creek, Candlemas it will be.
Many traditions associated with Candlemas and Imbolc: