Down with the holly, ivy, all, Where with ye dress’d the Christmas Hall.
-Robert Herrick, Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2: Attention, all procrastinators—those last Christmas decorations must go, following the old custom that leaving any trace of holly or berries after Candlemas is inauspicious. Candlemas also is known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, exactly 40 days after the Nativity. (Wikipedia has details.) In European countries, Christ’s crèche is put away on Candlemas Eve, and in some Latin countries, the crèche is replaced with a representation of the Child Jesus—signaling the time to switch devotion to the Divine Childhood and coming Passion.
Folklore abounds on Candlemas (think Groundhog Day), but it’s a biblical event that began the celebration of this feast. The Gospel of Luke describes Mary and Joseph toting the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth.
While at the Temple, the Holy Family encountered two prophets: Simeon and Anna. You can read the entire story in Luke 2:22-38. According to the Gospel, Simeon and Anna both recognized the child as Divine. Simeon speaks praise to God in Luke 2 and declares: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
Candlemas bring delicious foods and vibrant customs! For Candlemas in France, burning candles light tables piled high with crepes. One French custom holds that a cook who can flip a crepe while holding a coin in the other hand will assure his family prosperity in the coming year. (Check out crepe recipes at FishEaters.) In Mexico and Guatemala City, Candlemas brings tamales and hot chocolate, often served at a party thrown by the person who found the baby Jesus trinket in an Epiphany King Cake. (Catholic Culture offers directions for a Candlemas ceremony.)