Candlemas: Celebrating the Midpoint of Winter with Children

by Josée

The midpoint of winter is the halfway mark between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It typically takes place around February 2nd, but this date can vary slightly depending on the year. There are many beautiful traditions that celebrate the midpoint of winter: Candlemas, Groundhog Day, Saint Brigid’s Day, and Imbolc are a few common ones. Not surprisingly, the rituals and traditions of these celebrations have influenced one another over time. Regardless of what your family believes, celebrating the midpoint of winter with your children is a special way to prepare for the coming spring.

If you’d like to learn more about the origins of Candlemas, Groundhog Day, Saint Brigid’s Day, and Imbolc continue reading. If you’re only looking for fun ways of celebrating this day you can skip to Celebrating the Midpoint of Winter in Your Home.

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Celebrations for the Midpoint of Winter

Candlemas

Candlemas is a celebration of light and hope. It finds its root in the Christian Feast of the Presentation of the Jesus in the Temple, previously called the Purification of Mary. Forty days after Jesus was born He was presented at the temple, as was the custom of the time.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

 Luke 2:22

During Jesus’ presentation at the temple, the prophet Simeon declared that Jesus would be a light to the world.

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

Canticle of Simeon

The early Christian church celebrated this solemn event around mid-February which officially ended the Christmastide and by the Middle Ages it became associated with a blessing of candles and a Candlemas procession.

Groundhog Day

February 2nd is also Groundhog Day. Started in the United States in 1887, Groundhog Day finds its roots in Candlemas but was influenced by German traditions brought over by the first German settlers. In German folklore, if a hedgehog saw his shadow on Candlemas Day, spring would be delayed. When the settlers arrived in the United States there were no hedgehogs and so they picked a groundhog instead.

Saint Brigid’s Day

Saint Brigid is Ireland’s greatest female patron Saint. While not as well know as Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid is much loved among the Irish people. Born in Ireland in 451, to a pagan father and Christian mother, Saint Brigid’s was known as a protector of women, founder of monasteries and was good friends with Saint Patrick. Saint Brigid also shares her name with Celtic goddess Brigantia and over time history and legend have melded together. Saint Brigid’s Day is celebrated on February 1st Day.

Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story by Bryce Milligan 

A beautiful blue cloak was given to newborn Brigid by a druid who proclaimed that she would herald in the new Ireland. Brigid blue cloak brings her on a magical journey back in time. A magical story about Saint Brigid of Ireland.

Imbolc

Imbolc is an ancient Celtic celebration to honour their goddess Brigantia and to prepare for the coming spring. When this celebration began seems to be murky but there is mention of it in Irish literature around the 10th century. Imbolc literally means “milking” or “in the belly” and was associated with the start of lambing season. During Imbolc people would leave milk and food for the goddess Brigantia to receive her blessing. They would also clean their homes, make straw dolls of the goddess and light bonfires. Traditionally Imbolc is celebrated from sunset on February 1st to sunset on February 2nd.

Note: There’s a misconception that Imbolc was taken over by Candlemas in an effort to Christianize it, but while there is some overlap in the symbols and rituals, these celebrations have different origins in time and place making them uniquely separate celebrations.

Celebrating the Midpoint of Winter in Your Home

Bright Light with Candles

Celebrating the midpoint of winter is truly a celebration of light! In our home we restock our supply of beeswax candles for the year. If I’m feeling extra motivated I might even make candles with my children. The simplest candles for children to make are those using sheets of beeswax and wicks like these kits from Maplerose (located in British Columbia). These candle making kits are also available on amazon, but support your local shops if you can.

It’s a beautiful tradition to have your candles blessed by a religious leader, bless them yourself, or recite a meaningful candle themed poem.

O Gracious Father, almighty and eternal God, you created all things out of nothing, and by your command caused the labor of bees to be revealed in the perfection of wax. You commanded your servant Moses to keep lamps continually burning before you. Bless and sanctify these candles that their light may be for us a visible reminder of the true light who enlightens everyone coming into the world. As these candles, kindled with a visible flame, scatter the darkness of night, so also may our hearts be enlightened by the invisible fire of the Holy Spirit that we might avoid the darkness of sin, see your salvation, and attain to the Light that never fades away. All this we ask through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A Blessing of Candles (Christian)

Make Delicious Crepes

It’s thought that celebrating Candlemas with crepes goes back to the fifth century with Pope Gelasius I. The French, however, take Candlemas crepe making a step further. They have a crepe flipping contest to see if the year will bring financial luck or not. My favourite crepe recipe was passed down from my French Canadian grandmother:

Crêpes

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • butter or grapeseed oil for the pan

Instructions

  • Using a blender, blend all the ingredients together until smooth.
  • Pour a ladle full of the batter onto a preheated and oiled pan. Spread the mixture evenly across the pan into about a 7 to 8 inch circle (or bigger depending on the size of you pan) by tilting the pan.
  • Once one side of the crepe has brown, flip it over and brown the other side.
  • Repeat the cooking steps until the batter is all used up.
  • Serve with: maple syrup, butter + brown sugar, fruit, whipping cream, Nutella

If crepe making seems dauting, how about making pancakes instead?

Celebrate with Flowers

Grow Snowdrops: Snowdrops have been traditionally associated with Candlemas and Saint Brigid. Their snowy white blooms represent purity and hope and tend to be one of the first flowers to bloom in the late winter or early spring. Snowdrops are hardy to -25F (-32C) and can be planted in the fall, but tend to establish themselves better when planted in February or March after they have bloomed. If gathering or growing snowdrops is not an option, there are many lovely snowdrop inspired craft ideas online.

Plant some seeds indoors: Spring is just around the corner. This is a great opportunity to get started on growing indoor seedlings so that you can get a head start on spring gardening.

Purify your home and heart

Give your home deep clean: It’s common for families to give their home an early spring cleaning at winter’s midpoint. Decluttering, dusting, sweeping, mopping, and polishing are a family affair. Even young children can participate by washing their toys, pairing up socks or dusting surfaces.

Put away any remaining holiday and winter décor: Traditionally winter’s midpoint celebrations marked the end of Christmastide so any remaining decorations were put away or burned. Most families have tucked away their holiday décor before the new year but I’ll be the first to admit I still have a few things out.

Set spring intentions: This celebration is a good time reflect. Together with your child set some intentions for the coming springs. What are some things you would like to get better at? What are some things you would like to try? What are some things you want to let go of?

Sources

  • Feast of the Presentation of the Lord https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2022-02-02
  • Imbolc https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/imbolc
  • Punxsutawney Groundhog Club https://www.groundhog.org/
  • St. Brigid of Ireland https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=453

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