Friday, December 26, 2014

... Christmasing until Candlemas & the legend of the snowdrop...

Snowdrops in snow
It’s much too early to talk about Candlemas… or is it? Apparently, Christmas Day is over and everything returns to *normal* (or Normal Time as the Church calls it). Christmas music goes away; trees come down. My fella recounts how his family had their Christmas decorations taken down before Christmas day even ended. He was playing with his toys under the tree while watching Christmas being taken down. GASP! This is the START of Christmas! It is only beginning! And while the commercialism ceases, the festivities can begin.

For decades, I’ve embraced an old Polish tradition, one that even my family didn’t follow. My Christmas decorations remain up until February 2nd or until Candlemas… which I often have to explain to folks is the day most folks in this country acknowledge as Groundhog’s Day.

Cookies from a past Candlemas Brunch
Candlemas is the midpoint of winter, halfway between the December solstice and the March equinox. Candlemas activities most likely derive from Imbolc, a Gaelic festival, or the Roman feast of Lupercalia. February 2nd marked the ‘Feast of Lights’. It was the hope and welcome for the return of spring and for the sun to return.

It was thought that the weather on Candlemas Day, just as we look to today’s Punxsutawney Phil to predict the weather for the remaining winter. If the weather is bright and sunny, the rest of winter will be bleak. If the weather is stormy and wet, the worst of the winter weather is over.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

Cookies from a past Candlemas Brunch
From an old Catholic perspective especially during the Middle Ages, it was the day that parishioners would bring their candles to the church to be blessed by the priest to ward off any evil spirits. If you’ve ever attended any type of candle lighting ceremony in the darkest of winter you’ll know how powerful this must have been especially in one of those medieval churches.

Candles were sources of light and they were also thought to offer protection against illness and even plague. One superstition believed by the Romans was that on winter nights a lit candle would frighten away evil spirits. Before electric lights, candles were extremely important. Metaphorically the candle is the light of Jesus. Christians considered the world dark and lost until the light of the world was born.

Yet, another source of brightness connected with the day is Candlemas Bells or Snowdrops. The Latin name is Galanthus, which means "milk flower".

The Legend of the Snowdrop
According to legend, the flower became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden. Eve was about to give up hope that winter would cease to end when an angel appeared. She angel transformed snowflakes into Snowdrop flowers showing that the winter will return to spring.

According to Christian belief, these flowers symbolize hope while others consider snowdrops to be a symbol of Christ bringing hope to the world.  
Garden Snowdrops are known for their early arrival. They can show up weeks before crocuses, and will even often poke through snow. In the South, Snowdrops may even bloom all winter long.

It has been considered unlucky to bring Snowdrops into the home before Candlemas; yet, some people think that they help purify a home.

Robert Herrick’s poem “Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve” offers:

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,

Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

Of course, all of this is difficult to take in when the weather high today is 53ºF/ 12ºC and tomorrow it is predicted to be nearly 60ºF/ 15ºC. Virginia winters usually arrive late. Fingers crossed for no harsh winter weather which lead to frozen pipes in 2015.


  1. Candlemas sounds great, especially in a cold country. I like the idea of lighting the candles to protect from the darkness! We always leave our tree up for a while too! It feels sad to take it down!

    1. It's 64ºF / 17ºC today but it does get dark very early so the candles help with that too.

  2. This was a lovely read. I've never heard of candlemas.

  3. We take down our decorations the 13th January, 20 days from Christmas wich is a day of a Danish saint. I love snow drops but I dont have any in my garden yet. Thanks for a very interesting post.

    1. I love following traditions. So often around here folks follow the commercialism gods and they're just not much fun to worship.

      I've ordered some bulbs to try. I've always thought they were lovely.

  4. I did not know any of these traditions, really interesting! :)