The Tradition of Candlemas

The Tradition of Candlemas

Candlemas — also called the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple or the Purification of the Blessed Mother — is always celebrated on Feb 2nd, 40 days after Christmas.  Why is this important and what does it mean? 

Candlemas brings two important things together

Candlemas brings two important celebrations together to be celebrated 40 days after Christmas:  the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and the Purification of the Blessed Mother. 

Purification of the Blessed Mother

According to the Law of Moses which is found in the book of Leviticus, a woman was considered unclean and needed to wait 40 days after the birth of a son so she could be purified before she was able to enter into the temple.  Once those days of purification were complete, she could enter the temple by offering, at the door of the tent, a lamb for a burnt offering.  If she could not afford a lamb, she could offer 2 turtledoves or 2 pigeons instead.   – Leviticus 12 and Luke 2:22-38 

Presentation of the Lord

The presentation of the Lord was also completed on this day according to the Mosaic Law in Exodus where God said: “consecrate to me all the first born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the sons of Israel” (Exodus 13:1-2)

Everything was done in strict observance of the law.  By doing this, Jesus fulfilled prophesies of the Old Testament:

“…the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1)   

Bringing it all together: Candlemas

Candlemas encompasses both the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Mother

Quite literally, Candlemas is candle Mass

Candles are blessed by the priest during Mass and then given to people to take home.  Many people will also bring their own candles that day to be blessed. 

Why are candles used during Candlemas?

So... why candles?  Candles have lots of important meanings:

  • Candles dispel darkness -  this is a great symbolism that points to the fact that Jesus is the light of the world and dispels the darkness.
  • They act as a guiding light in the dark as God lead the Magi to Jesus that one Christmas night  “...the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9)
  • Candles are a great symbol of sharing the faith.  Just like during the Easter Vigil, when one candle flame is shared throughout the church and lightens up the whole church, the Faith is like a candle, which gets shared with all you touch “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15)
  • Candles symbolize holiness, purification, and cleansing.

La Festa Della Candelora

In Italy, Candlemas is called La Festa Della Candelora.  They also bless candles during mass, some places will have a candle procession. 

For many, leaving Christmas decorations up, or, at least, leaving the Nativity up, is a long-standing tradition based in Catholic tradition.

In Italy, Candlemas can even tell us a bit about the weather, according to old Italian proverbs:

The old Italian proverb says: “Per la Santa Candelora se nevica o se plora, dell’inverno siamo fora, ma se è sole o solicello, siamo sempre a mezzo inverno” which in English means… “For Candelmas, if it snows or if it rains, we are through winter; but if there is sunshine or a little sun, we are still in the middle of winter.” 

Another Italian proverb remembers “Quando vien la Candelora, de l’inverno semo fora. Ma se piove e tira vento, dell’inverno semo dentro” which means “When Candlemas comes, we are out of winter...but if it rains and the wind blows, we are still in winter.

Celebrate Candlemas

Candlemas is an important celebration and we encourage your family to join in!  Bring beeswax candles to Mass on Candlemas and ask your priest to bless them.  Many people then use the blessed candles for prayers at home throughout the year. 

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