Did you know that Candlemas has been celebrated for centuries under different names? As with many festivals today, it has its roots in pagan culture. For example, today, we are more familiar with references to Groundhog Day as a way to mark the coming of spring. However, way before Groundhog Day, this marking of the year was referred to as Candlemas, part of the Christian tradition. But, of course, before the Christian tradition, this day was celebrated by the Celtic people and known as Imbolc, which celebrates Brigid, the Goddess of the Dawn.
Regardless of the festival's name, the intention is to celebrate the return of the light that becomes more noticeable on this day. Traditionally celebrated on February 2, it marks the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. In ancient times, this day was cause for a grand celebration, as our ancestors relied so heavily on what they could grow for nourishment. The sun's return meant restored health and strength in the deepest sense of the word. As well, without the convenience of electricity, once the sun set each evening, candlelight was all they had. Today, we can still feel this cause for celebration when we live in the northern hemisphere. Winter is long and dark and can often lead to feelings of depression in people. Therefore, marking this point can bring a sense of hope.
To honour the return of the light, our ancestors built bonfires and made candles. On a practical level, preparing another batch of candles was needed to get through the final weeks of winter. Superstitions around the weather on this day began to unfold. We know this today when we anticipate whether the groundhog will see its shadow. Poems and songs in the days of old referred to weather and what it meant if it was sunny or rainy that day.
Annual festivals are so important to help mark the passing of the year. The concept of time is challenging for children, especially younger ones. Festivals are a very meaningful and memorable way to mark time, and Candlemas is a lovely tradition that is very enjoyable for children to celebrate today.
Celebrating Candlemas at Home
Here are some beautiful ways to celebrate Candlemas, and the coming of spring with your children.
Candle dipping is a fun and interactive activity that brings this celebration to life. You can easily make beeswax candles in your home or prepare a candle dipping station outside. You will need some old pots, beeswax pellets, and string for the wicks. Here's some detailed instructions to make dipped candles at home.
Candle Dipping Activity
This is a lovely reverent activity you can do while dipping your candles. Set your melted beeswax at one end of a table and a pot of water at the other. Walk slowly around the table, dipping your string in the beeswax at one end of the table and then in water at the other. Continue circling the table in this way until your candles are the width you would like. As you circle the table, you can sing the following Candlemas song:
We dip our candles in the big old tin,
And we wait a little bit for it to drip drop in.
We make enough to last the year,
To bring us joy and bring us cheer.
Around and around and around and around...
Recite Candlemas Verses
Here are a few verses you can say with your children as you light your candles.
A farmer should, on Candlemas Day,
Have half his corn and half his hay.
On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang adrop,
You can be sure of a good pea crop.
When Candlemas Day is bright with sun;
Then Winter’s power has just begun –
But when Candlemas Day is dark with rain
Then Winter’s power is on the wane!
This is a verse that relates Candlemas to Groundhog Day:
Badger peeps out on Candlemas Day,
and if he finds snow, he walks away.
But if the sun is shining down,
Badger returns to his hole in the ground.
Other Ideas for Celebrating Candlemas
Since Candlemas is a time for new beginnings, this is a good day to get creative and celebrate all that is new.
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