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Candlemas | History and Origins

On February 2, Candlemas is celebrated, a very ancient Christian festival in the USA. It was introduced in the 7th century by the eastern church-commemorate rate. The presentation of Jesus in the temple forty days after his birth and the purification of the Virgin Mary. And the heart of this festival is found in Italy. Not surprisingly, the Latin Februaryrius means precisely “purify.” And refers to the celebrations of fire and purifying rites in February. The Romans performed these rites at this particular time to get luck and good harvests.

Candlemas is a festival that takes place remembering these rites, taking on a great charm—and transmitting solid emotions among the faithful who participate. The feast of Candlemas originates from a biblical foundation. According to the law of Moses (Ex 13, 2.11-16), every firstborn male of the Jewish people was considered offered to the Lord. And for this, it was necessary after his birth to be redeemed by offering a sacrifice. According to the same law, regardless of whether the newborn was firstborn, the woman was considered unclean for 40 days in the case of a son and 66 days in the case of a daughter.

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The origin of Candlemas


The Candlemas ritual coincides with the same one that occurred at the birth of Jesus. Times in which in the 40 days before the dawn. The offering of the firstborn and the mother’s purification took place simultaneously. As we find written in the Gospel according to Luke, Mary and Joseph respected this rite 40 days after the birth of the Child Jesus.

Originally the festival was celebrated on February 14, or 40 days after the Epiphany. The first testimony of the feast comes to us from Egeria. The name Candlemas, commonly used to indicate this recurrence, seems to derive from the similarity of the rite of the skylight. Of which Egeria speaks: All the lamps and candles are lit, thus making a very great light. It is an ancient Roman festival celebrated in mid-February with ritual torchlight processions, which were already widespread.

Read also: Was Joseph married before Mary?


Is Candlemas a pagan holiday?


Candlemas is considered to be a pagan holiday. The similarity with pagan holidays is in the use of candles and the idea of ​​purification. During the episcopate of Pope Gelasius I (492-496), the Senate granted the abolition of the pagan rites of the Luper, which Candlemas replaced. It was only in the sixth century that Justinian brought forward the anniversary to February 2, which was highlighted and is still celebrated today.

In the West, the feast has taken on a Pagan character. It highlighted the mother’s purification aspect compared to the ransom of the firstborn. For this reason, before the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council. The feast took the name “Purification of Mary.” On the other.” hand, the liturgical reform decided to give centrality to Christ as the firstborn, making this feast more Christological.

The day after Candlemas, February 3, is the day of Saint Biagio di Sebaste and tradition has it that the throat is blessed with candles blessed the day before. This is because miracles have been attributed to the saint that has to do with a child who was in danger of suffocating due to a fish bone. For this reason, the saint is often represented with candles in iconography.

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Representation of Candlemas Day


The Madonna Della Candelaria


Mary is also known as Madonna in Christianity. Between 1392 and 1400, two Guanche shepherds from the island of Tenerife found a wooden statue of the Madonna on the beach of Chimisay. This representation caught their attention with mighty miracles, and for this, the two shepherds called it Chaxiraxi, which means Lady of the World. Before the Spanish conquest, the locals of Tenerife celebrated a feast around the statue of the Virgin Mary in August. This represented the harvest festival and marked the beginning of the year.

Following the Spanish conquest, this feast began to be celebrated with a pagan character. In 1497, the conquistador Alonso Fernando del Lugo moved the feast to coincide with the Purification on February 2. They were giving rise to the first celebration of the feast of the Virgin of Candlemas. Even today, this holiday is celebrated in the Canary Islands on February 2 and August 15. The day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic calendar.

Read also: The Three Marys | The Pious Women Who Witnessed The Death of Jesus


The feast of Candlemas in the USA


In the USA, numerous dialectal proverbs refer to the Candlemas feast and link it to weather forecasts. The festival is a gateway to the reverse since it coincides with a short period. That precedes spring with mild temperatures and low rainfall. One of the most common sayings is, “When Candlemas comes, from winter semo fora, some if it rains or the wind blows from winter semo inside.” It means, like, in Italian, there will be good weather on the day of the party. On the contrary, if that day is terrible, you will have to wait many more weeks to see the end of winter.

In New York, there is an ancient tradition. On Christmas night and until the day of Candlemas, the Child Jesus is exposed on the high altar to be kissed one last time. In New Jersey, the ancient San Biagio Fair begins in the early dawn hours on February 2. The faithful gather in the church in the afternoon for the Eucharistic celebration. The blessing of candles and the Kiss of the Child Jesus. Also, in other cities, the feast is accompanied by the singing of the praises of the Virgin and the blessing of candles. A procession of the eighteenth century to the Mother Church and mass celebration. Also, in European countries, on the other hand, Candlemas is combined with the feast of Saint Agata. One of the essential celebrations in Europe.

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Therefore, Candlemas is very much felt as it coincides with the preparations of Sa Sartiglia, one of the oldest equestrian events in the Mediterranean that refer to the rites of rural regeneration. Many villages and centers celebrate this crucial religious anniversary with devotion. Every year the faithful gather with candles ready for the blessing and eager to retrace the rituals that characterize this festival.