February Second is Candlemas: the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary.

Back in the day, it was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving birth. Since Mary gave birth at the winter solstice by the pope's calendar, she wouldn't be purified until February 2nd. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to perform the prescribed sacrifice of purification.

Back in the day before the day, February Second was the day of the Irish goddess Brighid or Brigit or Bride (whichever you prefer - she was often referred to as 'Brigit and her two sisters named Brigit'), goddess of fire, smithcraft, and healing. The Catholic Church could not easily call the great goddess of Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. She became Saint Brigit, patron saint of smithcraft, poetry, and healing.

Brigit's holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since she symbolized the fire of healing, the fire of the forge, and the fire of poetic inspiration. Some weave Brigit's Crosses from straw or wheat to hang around the house for protection. The Church took on this symbolism using Candlemas as the day to bless all the church candles that would be used for the coming liturgical year. (don't forget, tomorrow is St. Blaise's Day, and the newly-blessed candles will bless the throats of the faithful, keeping them from colds, flu and sore throats!)

Oh yeah and Happy Groundhog Day too.

Can"dle*mas (#), n. [AS. candelmaesse, candel candle _ maesse mass.]

The second day of February, on which is celebrated the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary; -- so called because the candles for the altar or other sacred uses are blessed on that day.


© Webster 1913.

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