Candlemas has a rich and diverse history. Known as the Festival of Lights, Candlemas has been celebrated for hundreds of years. It is celebrated on February 2nd.
In Gaelic, this holiday is known as Là Fhèill Brìghde nan coinnlean which translates as “The feast day of Brìghde of the candles”. Bìghde is Bridget of Kildare, the Celtic goddess of fire, the hearth, smithy, fields, poetry, and childbirth. She gives blessings to women who are about to marry. Women still bear her name on their wedding day to honor her. They are called [a] Bride for the day.
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
There’ll be twa (two) winters in the year.
On the feast day, Bridget would visit and bless homes. If the sun was seen on this day, winter was over, but if the sun was hidden behind clouds winter was still to come. In the British Isles, spring is already on its way. Flower buds are poking through and the greenery is returning. Milk begins to flow in the udders of cows and sheep as they ready for the birth of their offspring. Older pagan names for Candlemas include Imbolc and Oimelc. Oimelc meaning “milk of ewes” and Imbolc translating as “in the belly” (pertaining to the earth).
In some countries it was believed that some type of burrowing animal, the hedgehog was popular, would come out on Bridget’s Day to judge the quality of the weather. This tradition came with settlers to the New World, but alas no hedgehogs could be found just groundhogs–in abundance. Thus Groundhog Day was born.
If the groundhog sees his shadow
we will have six more weeks of winter.
To sway pagans towards the Catholic Church, Bridget was Sainted and Candlemas became a time when the candles that were used throughout the year were blessed by the church.
Valentine’s Day gets mixed into this holiday as well. This is from the old calendar and all of the haphazard rearranging it succumbed to. Vance Randolf, an Ozark folklorist, stated that the “old-timers” used to celebrate Groundhog Day on February 14th.
In France and Canada, this day is known as La Fête de la Chandeleur. Traditionally, crepes are eaten to insure a bountiful year.
Manger des crêpes à la chandeleur
apporte un an de bonheur.
“Eating crêpes the day of la Chandeleur will bring a year of happiness”
Traditionally, candles are set in every window of the home and lit at sundown. They burn brightly until dawn. This is still practiced in the British Isles and in some parts of the United States. It is also customary to weave “Brigid’s Cross” from straw and hang it upon the hearth.
Brigid’s Cross courtesy of Culnacreann, Wikipedia.org