Friday, February 02, 2007

Candlemas

February 2nd is Candlemas, the 40th day from Christmas (if count Christmas Day as day 1). This is the end of the Epiphany season, and it is fitting that any remaining Christmas decorations or greenery such as holly, wreaths, poinsettias, and such forth be removed today in anticipation of Lent.

It commemorates the Holy Family going to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, in order to fulfill their obligations under the Mosaic Law. For a male child, this would occur 40 days after birth, and for a female child, 80 days. This would return the mother to ritual cleanliness.

The very earliest celebrations of this feast in Jerusalem was 40 days after Epiphany (which as a liturgical super-feast also commemorates Christ birth).

In the Tridentine calendar this day is called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin; under the reformed calendar it is called the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Under the old rituals preceding the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, beeswax candles would be blessed on this day. Candlemas has extensive secular observance in Europe.

In European folklore, on this day hibernating animals would leave their dens and inspect the weather, possibly returning to their dens for an additional 40 days of winter. This is the origin of the American secular observance of Groundhog Day.

Tonight at 7 p.m., Candlemas will be celebrated at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, with the Blessing of Candles, Candlelight Procession, and Solemn High Mass.

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