Today is Groundhog Day in the US but, with apologies to all lovers of groundhogs, I can't work up much enthusiasm for them so I have decided that the ancient celebration of Candlemas needs reviving. Whilst we may not all wholly associate Candlemas with the Purification of the Virgin Mary after the birth of Jesus, or the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple at Bethlehem, perhaps we could buy into the 'preponderance of candles' as described by Steve Roud in The English Year.
February 2nd, Candlemas, falls midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and was also traditionally the day that candles were blessed in church, very much in keeping with the notion of shedding light into darkness, and the day apparently big news in the Middle Ages. So we are half way there in the Northern Hemisphere, and after weeks and weeks of rain and gloomy dark days that feels good.
In many indoor trades Candelmas marked the moment when candles could be dispensed with until the autumn for working during the day, for others it marked the end of the Christmas period... all feasting and fun should now cease on the assumption that we've all been frivoling and jollying non-stop since December. Another common superstition which originated here in the Shire surrounds the weather...
If Candlemas day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter to come and mair,
If Candlemas day be wet and foul,
The half of winter's gone at Yule.
Chances are it will be 'wet and foul' and my answer will be to light my candle.
My Christmas candles were a huge success. No major disasters, the kitchen glowed each evening and thanks to the old glass ice bucket, which has doubled as a safe container, the coffee table didn't catch fire this time round.
All were nicely burned down by Twelfth Night and replaced with a single one in the Book Room which has in turn burned itself out this week. I have a Candlemas replacement to start off today, pure beeswax which I am hoping will light me through to the clocks going forward, when I will dispense with them until the autumn.
My music for the day will be An English Ladymass - medieval chant and polyphony sung by Anonymous 4 and one of my favourites this winter. Gaude virgo salutata... Salve mater redemptoris... Lux et gloria... Kyria christifera... Missus Gabriel de celis...the names enough to conjure up the Candlemas of old perhaps.
So there you have it, Happy Candlemas, and if the days still feel a bit dark may be light a candle to see you through to spring as well. (Sorry Australia, this will seem all wrong down your way.)